Driving with Tarjei Nygård

*photos by John Derek Bishop

There’s no mistaking Egyptian Lover’s sound. That west coast sound, imbued with the spirit of pre-hop-hop electro has been cemented in club music’s collective psyche and none dare, nor can replicate it. It lends itself to a time, but a time in a parallel dimension traveling perpendicular to ours. It’s a universe where electrified Deloreans power through aerial freeways and TuPac never left the Digital Underground. It’s where Egyptian Lover thrives, and it’s here Tarjei Nygård and Stockhaus turned to when they went searching for the vocals on their one-off collaboration “Drive. “

Drive sounds like nothing Tarjei Nygård has done in the past. A unique interaction between two Norwegian producers and a serendipitous exchange with an electronic music legend has led to one of the most endearing tracks and subsequent releases of 2021. It’s not something we expected coming off the back of Tarjei Nygård’s equally brilliant, but decidedly different 2019 EP “Lost in Lindos” and despite or more likely in spite of that, it’s turned heads as large as Solomun’s. “That’s so strange,” chuckles Tarjei over a telephone call from Stavanger, ”because it’s not the type of thing he is known for… That’s the thing with a one-off like this, it doesn’t fit into anything.”  

“Drive” skirts that impossible divide between club track and radio banger, featuring a punishing electro beat, massaged into submission with an accessible melodic theme and Balardian sci-fi lyrics from a vocoder operated by a man that has refined that style of music to a precision craft, Egyptian Lover. The larger than life figure has made an indelible impact with this particular style of music and he remains a constant presence that never disappoints. It’s a rare occasion that he features on any music other than his own, but when Nygård and Stockhaus cooked up the foundation for “Drive,” there was always only going to be one voice that could adorn their creation.

Waxing lyrical on desires of mechanophilia, “Drive” cruises on an undulating beat, flowing through synthesisers and vocoders like a 16 bit car as it weaves through LA traffic. Watching the canvas loop in Spotify, the music transports you back to the arcade in 1990 as blocky palm trees float through your periphery on your way to nowhere in particular. Stockhaus, Tarjei Nygård and Egyptian Lover capture the mood perfectly.

 It encouraged us to get in touch with Nygård to find out more about the track and what else he’s been up to since we last spoke. He’s just recovered from the re-opening party in Stavanger and after a “very enjoyable experience,” where he had the opportunity “to play for the heads” again after a long hiatus, he’s in good spirits and eager to talk about “Drive;” a new musical project; and a label in the works…

What have you been up to since we last spoke?

When covid hit, I was just in the studio making music. So now I have a bunch of music and I need to put that out. The first was Drive with Egyptian Lover. 

Yes, let’s talk about Drive. 

It took time to land that project, because first we had the song and then we realised quite quickly Egyptian Lover would be perfect to do the vocals on it. 

Did you know Egyptian Lover from before?

I knew him because I had booked him to a festival in town. I also met him in Miami one time. It helped because I met him before I booked him. I asked him and he was up for doing the vocals.  It took some time, because I wanted to be in the studio when he was doing it. 

This was before the pandemic.

Yes, I was in LA in 2018. I was lucky to go to California for some work in my old job and I combined it. 

Was it  only his vocal you were after, or did he add anything to the music?

I guess he added something to the music, by using the vocoder, which is his signature thing. It was very cool to be there and see the way he records.

Did you go to his studio?

He doesn’t have his own studio. I think he just rents a studio for a week when he’s working on something. I guess it’s easier in LA because it’s a little bit cheaper. But he is very adamant on doing it on an SSL desk and this kind of approach. Everything he does is old school, like mastering tapes to the pressing plant on vinyl. He’s doing it like he did it in the eighties.

What was Stockhaus’ involvement?

It started because Stockhaus was here in Stavanger, doing a writing course in music. He had some free time, and I invited him up to my studio and we made the track together. There was a little bit back and forth after we got the vocals from Egyptian Lover, and then I did the final mix. I also made the club version and the dub version. 

Tell me a bit about the club version, because it seems to me that it’s basically an extended version of the original.

That’s totally correct. It’s very similar to the original. The idea of the whole project was to keep it in this eighties vibe, when they had this extended version on every record. And that’s also why the dub is also quite simple, like those versions you would find on an eighties record. 

Where did the track start? Was it a melody, a beat, or simply a jam session?

We started with a drum beat, from what I can remember. I programmed some drums and Kristian Stockhaus just started playing stuff. It was just a collaboration in the studio and it was this kind of jam session, where we got a lot of tracks down. I made a demo version, which I played out and people seemed to enjoy, and then I sent it to Egyptian Lover and it continued into this song. 

Did it originally have that west coast feel, even before he put his vocals on it?

It was there from the beginning, and when we did it, we didn’t have Egyptian Lover in mind. It’s a one-off song for me, because it doesn’t sound anything like the stuff I’ve done before. 

I think that’s why it jumped at me when I first listened to it. 

I do a lot of different stuff and I’m interested in a lot of different music styles. We ended up just doing it, we didn’t have control either. The strange thing is that it could have been lost on a hard-drive somewhere.

Did the track already have a name at the point when you got Egyptian Lover on board, or did that happen after he wrote the lyrics?

I think I actually had the concept in mind, and he wrote the lyrics. It had that retro video game feel to it. He is such a professional. A couple of days before I arrived, I had sent him a little blurb about the track and when I came into the studio, he had everything written down and was ready to go. He’s very effective and just very good at what he does. 

Will this result in any future projects for the three of you?

I think this is a one-off. (laughs) It is nice to see this kind of one-off thing to the end, because a lot of these one-off things don’t really make it out in the end. It’s almost more difficult to finish this kind of project, than a project that’s similar to what you are doing.

How much more do you have coming out?

I’m working on a big project with Are Foss. We’ve released a few songs together on Full Pupp and Eskimo and are now beginning to see the end of a big project.

This is the project where you guys were going to your hytte and recording music?

Yes, we’ve been up there a bunch of times, driving snowmobiles and A.T.Vs, carrying a lot of equipment and having some friends over. That project is 85% finished, but it’s really nothing I can talk too much about…

Is it very much like the track you worked on together on Lost in Lindos, Øylie?

Some of it, but it goes in all directions. It’s quite an ambitious project. Some of the songs are pop; some are ambient and downbeat; and some are experimental. We even use a banjo in one of the songs. (laughs) 

The other thing is that I’m reviving my old festival Perkapella as a record label, that’s something I want to talk about more. 

Is the new music going solely for your own music?

I’ve signed The Glue. They are going to release their back catalogue and maybe some new stuff. 

Is The Glue’s music what planted the seed for the record label?

Yeah, they make Disco edits and during covid I got the rights to some of the songs that they’ve edited. That’s going to be quite fun. There is this one song that’s quite popular called, “penger” which was an underground hit on soundcloud. 

What about your releases, will you continue to release on other labels like Eskimo and ESP, or will you eventually release your music on Perkapella too?

I will see. First we have to start getting those releases from Da Glue in order. And then I’m going to get that other project with Are on the way… and then I’ll get that music I’ve been working on during covid under way. 

 

Homecoming with Fehrplay

It’s “probably the most nervous” Jonas Fehrplay has been for a show in years. It’s his latest version of a live show called Oblique and besides San Francisco, who has only seen a trial version, Jaeger will be the first time he performs the show in its refined entirety. And more daunting than that, it will be on home turf, in Oslo. 

While most musical artists break ground in their hometown in their formative years, Jonas’ ascent to success followed a much different path. It’s almost a decade after making his debut with a track that stormed the dance music charts and put the name Fehrplay amongst the highest tier in dance music. It’s hard to believe that besides a short DJ set at Findings 2015, this will be the first time the Norwegian artist and DJ will perform in Norway. 

“It’s my hometown,” he says while taking a bite of a pastry in a French delicatessen in Majorstua. Friends and family, some of whom have never seen him play, will be there to witness the premiere of Oblique, and trepidation has taken root, but you wouldn’t be able to tell it, just by looking at him. 

Jonas Fehrplay is amicable, taking an unlikely interest in the person that’s asking the questions as he is in answering them. He’s the consummate professional and although he’s answered these questions a million times in the past he carries no sign of fatigue or impatience in his physiognomy. He’s not the type of person we often get the chance to interview at Jaeger as an artist working in some of the upper echelons of the industry, where he reigns amongst the top-charting artists of our time, but his excitement for playing the basement is palpable. 

Everything about Jonas Fehrplay belies his success however, and there’s something unassuming and down to earth about the artist that is probably ingrained in his Norwegian roots. 

 

Growing up in Norway, Jonas learned to play the piano in his youth and it was Trance music that first caught the ear of the impressionable youth. From there a “love” for club music cemented an early curiosity and Jonas found himself “drawn” to it, besides having no strong cultural connection to anything like a scene. 

Armed with the theoretical knowledge of the piano, he started making music on his computer as a precocious 12 year old. A computer and the amateur loop-based software called e-jay provided the arbitrary tools and he started making music in a collage-like form by “taking samples and putting them together.” While his friends were playing playstation, he “would be on a laptop making Trance or House or whatever,” burning his creation to CDs for the various house parties he would visit by night. “I always had two CDs when I went to parties,” he recalls through a slanted smirk “because someone would always break the first one.” 

The case was a little different when he was hosting his own parties in his parents’ basement. Hooking up his piano to a pair of decks he would “play piano over the records” in what he remembers as “full-on basement parties,” but yet he lacked that connection to a community that could develop this curiosity into anything more. Friends didn’t really share his interest, and he was left largely to his own devices, before leaving for the UK to study abroad. 

It was ultimately the experience of moving to Manchester at 18 that laid the foundation for a career in club music and paved the way for Fehrplay to exist. “Just being in Manchester changed my whole perspective on club music,” explains Jonas. “That’s where I kind of grew up.” 

In Oslo, he never really found an outlet or a community for his creative pursuits and his musical tastes lay more at odds with the people around him. “It was more commercial,” he claims. An academic move to the north of England turned out just what Jonas needed to develop his music and turn it into a fully fledged career. In Manchester Jonas spent his days making music in an apartment he shared with people he still calls  friends today, and his nights at places like the legendary Manchester club, Sankeys –  just a few footsteps away from his front door. “As a young guy,” he says, “experiencing music like that is very important – Getting out of your bedroom and out of your city.“ 

It certainly had an advantageous effect on Jonas’ music, because while still only eighteen years old he signed a track to Ministry of Sound’s label and released “Meow” onto the world in 2010. It was picked up by BBC radio and Pete Tong and put the name Fehrplay on the lips of many influential tastemakers in the industry. “I think I listened to that clip of him introducing me a couple of hundred times,” remembers Jonas fondly. 

Bubbling synth lines are punctuated by formidable bass stabs before building up to a transcendent crescendo culminating in an uplifting major chord progression. Jonas “perfected that record over the course of a year,” cementing not only a sound built on the influences of Trance in the era of progressive House, but it also encouraged the young producer to release more music.  

“Between that and now,” he says trailing off into laughter “there’s been a lot of shit.“ It’s subjective, I’m sure, because there’s a level of success that isn’t simply stumbled upon and he certainly has cultivated a distinct sound. You can still hear that same foundation of “Meow” in one of Fehrplay’s latest “Kiki.” There’s a progression through melody and form, touching on the visceral, as it builds and breaks down. It spirits the listener away to ecstatic heights through a disembodied vocal and there’s a gratifying immediacy to his music that’s approachable.  

There’s an element of uplifting mood underpinning music made strictly for dance floors, which has the ability to unite a crowd over the course of a theme while trying to retain that connection between the big room and the dark underground club that birthed this style of music.

“It’s always hard to describe your own music,” he considers when I put this to him. “I find myself somewhere in the middle, where my music is still accessible to a lot of people, but more of an underground thing.” He’s recently established Mood of Mind in that vein, a record label that has become something of an “extension” of the artist. Featuring artwork by his mother, it’s a very personal project where Jonas can put out music by other artists and the Fehrplay tracks that don’t necessarily fit the profile of another label. 

It’s “great to put out your own music whenever you want to,” he says and pandering to label demands can be exhausting. Instead of making music for another label in their specific aesthetic, Jonas is freer today in making the music he wants without the added pressure of a demanding release schedule. He didn’t however simply arrive at this stage, and had cut his teeth in a trial by fire at Pryda and Friends. 

After releasing his debut on Ministry of Sound, Jonas not only found the ear of Pete Tong, but also Eric Prydz, who quickly signed the young artist to his Pryda and Friends label. The label  was a definite springboard for his career, and Jonas remembers the time at the label as “rewarding yet stressful.” He had sent in a demo and it was pure luck that somebody at the Prydz camp picked it up at all. It encouraged that drive to release music by giving Jonas a platform to release his tracks, but after 4 releases the relationship ended in what he describes as a “sad situation” when they completely erased Jonas’ music from their catalogue.

It’s a “long story” according to Jonas and one that he doesn’t really feel like reiterating here, but what came from the ashes was a new record label in the form of Mood of Mind and a new relationship with a much more open record label, Anjunabeats, as well as a move back to Norway in 2016. 

Jonas and his wife had been living in New York since breaking through in Manchester, riding a wave of popularity, predicated by the rise of EDM in the states. As somebody working on the forefront of progressive House rather than EDM, “it was a nice outlet for people who didn’t want to see Tiesto,” he suggests of his success. 

Jonas had a few “amazing shows” at the beginning of his sojourn in the USA and it “sparked a lot of conversation in the industry there,” as his star rose over the western front. A move to New York followed and while Jonas by his own account, “didn’t like what the scene was becoming, especially when America got on-board with it,” he wanted to offer something different. Moving forward, he would find a lot of success in the US with his music and his performances, but a different life called to him in 2016 when he made the move back to Norway. 

He feels it “was kind of sad” when he had to leave New York for Norway, “because I was just getting into living in New York.” He reminisces fondly on driving over the Brooklyn bridge as the sun comes up over the horizon after late night studio sessions. “I was pinching myself; thinking is this real?” Alas a better job opportunity for his wife at home and a more structured family life for a newborn awaited them in Norway and the move back home was inevitable. 

At times it can feel “like stepping backwards” believes Jonas who also thinks it might have ultimately affected his creativity. It’s “motivating to experience new things,” he explains and  “moving back to a place I’ve experienced my whole life” might not be the best for an artistic disposition. The culture of a place like New York with its clubs and artists living in some bohemian enclave from the rest of the world, inspires on a daily basis. Then again priorities change and there’s also some positive elements to moving back home. In Norway for example “it’s more about having a good space to work in” today for Jonas. “Being able to build a studio and having my family close by” has motivated Jonas in other ways and in this dichotomy, Jonas has found a happy balance in his work life.

As the borders open up and the pandemic eases into submission, Jonas is already travelling again for shows and that experience he seeks will undeniably follow. Jonas ultimately considers the move back as a “good choice,” at least for the moment… 

The pandemic and the home studio has given him time to perfect his live show, much like the way he perfected “Meow.” He talks at length about the technical aspects of making it work and making that intangible connection between the recorded tracks and their live versions. It’s a daunting prospect for anybody, a show of this magnitude, including the visual aspect, and it can’t be any easier, doing it in front of your home crowd. He’s eager to see the project come to life, but the nerves remain nevertheless, predicated by the idea of that debut performance in front of family and friends. 

That validation of playing your first in front of your hometown, has always eluded Jonas. Usually you play the home gig before moving out beyond the borders, but for Jonas that never happened. He had established himself on the international stage and this next performance will essentially be his live debut in Norway. It’s Jonas’ homecoming, so to speak and it’s understandable why he should be nervous. 

*Fehrplay presents Oblique (live) in the basement on Nightflight, Saturday 16.10. 

Premiere: Ivaylo – The Walkers (Karolinski remix)

Premiering Karolinski’s remix of Ivaylo’s The Walkers… from the forthcoming EP 2020 via his Bogota Records label. 

2020 was the year that never happened. Many artists and DJs retreated into their introverted world, immersing themselves in their greatest passion only to be dismayed by the utter hopelessness of trying to release music; play a concert; or DJ during the exasperating circumstances of the pandemic. There was some solace to be found in the virtual realm of streaming, but that only lasted as long as the second wave before it too became over-saturated, and without that physical connection to an audience, unrewarding. 

There were a few however that persevered regardless. They continued to make music, perform and DJ against all odds, and in some many cases even managed to make an indelible impact in their field. Ivaylo calls these people the walkers. “The Walkers,” explains Ivaylo over an email exchange, “are those creative souls who went through that period full of positive energy.”

“The walkers” arrives this week on a new EP called “2020” from Ivaylo’s Bogota Records, as the full-pupp affiliate and Jaeger resident channels that positive energy into defining the spectrum of sound for the next era of Bogota Records. Created in the “pre-zooming” era of 2019 and completed in 2020, “2020” only sees the light of day in 2021, and as much as it calls in a post-pandemic age for the artist and the DJ, it was also a way for Ivaylo to ”get all these emotions of my chest.”

*2020 is out on Bogota Records this Friday

For the remix of the lead track, Ivaylo turned to one such “walker” in the form of Karolinski. The dub-techno artist and DJ has been a musical force, releasing music across the spectrum throughout this difficult time, and “The Walkers” finds the deep sounds of Ivaylo’s original submitting under her dub-infused charm of Karolinski’s musical idiom.  

Karolinski shapes Ivaylo’s track from the percussion up. “The Drums!”; she exclaims via email, ”that’s the only original sound I ended up using apart from the short vocal sample.” Bells ringing out in the vast emptiness of space, flicker in and out of our orbit as wispy noise and ephemeral synth lines build into a progression over an intricate tapestry of percussive instruments. There’s a feeling of distance coursing through the track, like a gap in the passage of time. It’s subtle and immersive.  

“I don’t know. I just wanted to tune it down, make it chill as well as danceable at the same time” explains Karolinski about the origins of the remix. Churning around 115 BPM and ineffable mood sinks in. In a similar fashion to her own music it simply started with a “synthesiser and kick, and then it just flows wherever it goes,” says Karolinski in a pragmatic exchange over email. 

She made it in a few hours, but hung onto it for a while until she could grasp the intricacies of what she created. “I then felt something for it,” she says and then handed it over to Ivaylo to find its way out this Friday via any good digital outlet. We’re eager to hear it in full and as a preview, we’ve been given the opportunity to premiere the track ahead of its release. 

*Pre-Order 2020 including this track from beatport.

See you on the floor…

The dance floor opens and all corona restrictions fall away as Jaeger re-opens fully.

“See you on the floor:” a simple epithet for a greeting that we at Jaeger have been using since time immemorial. Used flippantly and impulsively it had almost lost all meaning by the time the pandemic hit, to the point that it feels like we took it for granted.

After two years of not being able to say those words, the weight they carry today can’t be taken lightly and it gives us great pleasure to be able to say to you… “see you on the floor.”

In accordance with the latest corona restrictions you no longer require to be seated at a table or have one meter distance between you, allowing us to do away with those clunky, unnecessary things that have been taking up our dance floor. Our guests will be yet again free to move and free to mingle and free to express themselves through movement on our dance floor. It’s been a trying year for everybody in our efforts to find some median between these arbitrary restrictions and the essence of what Jaeger is, and it brings us great pleasure and relief to finally be able to do away with these “rules.”

As a result there will no longer be any table service and the bar is open for anybody to simply walk up and purchase something directly from our staff. There’ll no longer be that awkward middle ground between android and bar staff. It will most certainly be surreal to get back that point where we were before the pandemic and we look forward to welcoming you all back to the floor.

While the corona restrictions are now removed, we’ll continue to follow the situation and adhere to any changes in government and local policies, but only in a way that remains pleasant for our guests. Needless to say we’ll try to keep that as far away from our and your minds while enjoy your night with us across our two dance floors.

Yes, we have two dance floors again and we’ve already opened our basement for Fridays and Saturdays. As you might have seen by now there has been some changes happening in the basement and we’re able  to accommodate a bigger dance floor and more bass down in our subterranean sound lair. At the same time the courtyard will continue to host our resident DJs and a dance floor, and with new fixtures arriving in the near future, we’ll be spending some effort in creating a cosy and snug environment as the winter draws nearer, but more news on that later…

For now let us enjoy this new found freedom again and for those of you that came of age during the pandemic, we’re truly happy to be able to welcome you to experience club music for the first time. It brings us great pleasure to finally say… and undeniably mean… SEE YOU ON THE FLOOR!

Emerging at the confluence of art and club music with SGurvin

“The music scene, the club and the art scene are merging.” A few years back, this was a predominant theme in club music. Labels like Stroboscopic Artefacts headed by artists like Lucy were attempting to redefine the gallery as club space, channeling ideas from conceptual artists like Marcel Duchamp through a couple of grooveboxes in a warehouse space offering a backdrop like one Rauschenberg’s white canvas’. It was pure art for art’s sake and it felt like we were on the cusp of inaugurating Techno as a legitimate artform in the stuffy world of academic art practises. There was a spirited push to achieve this, but then as if the entire Techno scene realised there would be no economic advantage in pursuing these ideas, it just vanished into thin air.  

The art-world were curious, but unaccepting while the club scene turned their back on these musicians in favour of a return to the immediacy of the corporeal and hedonistic, leaving these artists and and their works stranded in a kind of elusive no-man’s land, where they’ve joined previous attempts from the world of Jazz, post-Punk, Noise, and Ambient music genres. Abandoned by most and admired by few, these attempts go largely unrecognised by the great art institutions, forever doomed to drift haplessly on the river styx between “highbrow intellectuals” and “lowbrow nonconformist” in a state of artistic purgatory, only to be appreciated years beyond their creation. On the rare occasions artists like La Monte Young and Ryuichi Sakamoto managed to wade through the bog to otherside as bonafide “artists”, but for most it’s a self-deprecating struggle against the tide with a singular motivation propelling them forward into the obscure. 

It’s here in this realm that SGurvin first emerged as an artistic vehicle for Sigurd Gurvin, but with a more fluid adaptation of the concepts above, he has seemed to emerge on the other side with EPs for Full Pupp and remixes for the likes of SYNK, in an effort towards a more accessible idea of this music as a consumerist artform, informed by ideologies like: “resistance to the institutions getting too much power over the art scene and the definition of the art scene.”  Sigurd sees “club culture as a modern folk tradition” with the emphasis on the folk aspects as some kind of social glue in the experience of the creative process that like most post-modernist before him can redefine “the black box as a way of thinking about the white cube;” in this particular case the club space as a gallery space. 

In the period between 2017 – 2019 he and Langagora (Henrik Langgård) realised the vision as EUFORISK, functioning as a club night series and a collective where the focus had been to “loosen up this white gallery idea of art, and see it more as a social sculpture… move the aesthetic approach to something that’s happening.” Today those ideas from the defunkt club nights has been channelled into a label of the same name operating as an “archive”, and as something that Sigurd can continue to carry with him in everything he approaches, from making music to performing a live-hybrid set and even releasing records for Full Pupp.  

Growing up in Moss, these ideas manifested early with the young Sigurd in the world of Hip Hop where he found a “form of expression for a culture of peace, love and unity” in the dusty beats of this black American music. “Trying to connect different aesthetics to make a culture and a community” Hip Hop became an outlet for his creative identity at first. He found a “guru” in the Moss music icon Don Papa. The eccentric Don Papa has been a significant character in Norway’s music scene, influencing Sex Tags as well as creating his own music under aliases like Pablo Pækkis and MC Helbrød, and with outfits like Flammer Danse Band. Don Papa became a huge inspiration to the young Sigurd, who admired the Don for his originality and his ability to “flip things” in a perspective unique to that artist. Taking his musical cues from the Don, Sigurd started seeking out an expression in Hip Hop before eventually moving towards electronic music.

After many years in Hip Hop culture, however he felt “ it was getting too strict” and needed a new outlet for his creativity. “I was making too crazy beats for the rappers,” explains Sigurd, and the Hip Hop community by that stage was getting bogged down in “too many rules” for Sigurd. He sought out  “alternative ways of thinking about music” and after various forays into Jazz, Punk and Trip Hop, he eventually found a voice as SGurvin in the experimental realm of electronic music repurposed for the club. After completing his studies at the Art academy in Tromsø, Sigurd started to “develop a musical language” alongside working with visual art.” He spent five years refining these concepts and ideas, and when the time came, coinciding with a move to Oslo, it first took the form of an altruistic moniker, SGurvin and later as EUFORISK in collaboration with Langagora

EUFORISK started out in 2017 to “put our own work in context,” explains Sigurd. He and Langagora aimed to create a collective in order to “bounce some skills” off eachother “and learn from the creative process.” They ended up “making a culture around it” based on the ideas of euphoria where they’d be “creating and healing through a bigger body.” The limited run of events in middelalderparken in Oslo became more than just a club night, it became “a meeting point for people and a mashup of art expressions” according to its creator. Unfortunately, bureaucracy got in the way, and unable to use the venue they’d established after it was bought out by the city, the EUFORISK RAVE club concept died. 

“The project isn’t dead,” intercepts Sigurd… “we’re on level two, focusing on presentation of videoworks, interviews and VJ/DJ-mixes” he says with a wry chuckle. It was never just about the club concept, and since its inception it’s offered a platform for Sigurd to release music as SGurvin. Albums like Turn/Return followed, in which Sigurd would explore concepts as personal motivations through abstract sonic experiments. “I see concepts as the motivation,” says Sigurd. “I want people to get something out of it, but I need a personal motivation for my ideas, that’s linked to my life.” Turn/Return follows the story of a relative that went missing only to be found later in Berlin, but at the same time, it deals with Sigurd’s artistic identity as he comes to terms with his own metamorphosis during this period. The kafka-esque concept is delivered in strikingly brilliant music where atmosphere and melody abound in the spaces between the concrete rhythms. 

Beyond the concepts lie a musical curiosity however, and while Turn/Return dealt with these heavy ideas behind the music, the EPs that followed like “Trouble every day and Evolving Times aim to create brighter rooms, but in a fairly similar soundscape,” according to Sigurd. In some cases like his latest collaboration with Krass (Krister Kollstad) on Full Pupp Ekspress it abandons the visceral almost completely for the sake of the context: “On Subway Rails EP, we had an idea to make a vinyl release for the dance floor.“ The record which was first conceived in 2018 after Sigurd met Krister trying to “break into the DJ booth” at a EUFORISK event, didn’t quite make it onto the vinyl format as a digital release, but the context is still there as a club-based record. 

Rapid fire snares exchange patterns with wooly kicks and dreamy atmospheres in what Sigurd describes as a record that is trying to contribute to what he refers to as “Oslo Tekno.” It’s “something not just for the dance floors and not that hard,” but something that could be enjoyed beyond the club space. It’s this ethos he’s taken to his other work for Full Pupp including the the SGurvin EP and with more to come through the label in the near future, it seems like the idea is solidifying the sound of SGurvin around the Prins Thomas imprint. 

“I am inspired by relating to people, formats and ideas.” explains Sigurd about his differing approaches to music in an email after our conversation. “With EUFORISK, the focus was on developing style, putting our own work in context, learning from others, sharing knowledge and creating a culture for different art expressions that meet each other. With the Full Pupp releases, there are other frameworks and principles that apply, and this has also been a great inspiration for me.” Inspiration has come from working with Prins Thomas, something Sigurd purposefully sought out, and collaborating with artists like Krass and SYNK on original music, remixes and sometimes club events.

Underpinning all of this from the recorded works, the activities from EUFORISK and the live show is a simple desire for motivation. “If you’re curious about making something with this motivation,” he explains, “it’s often more interesting than if you’re trying to make just Techno.” In cases like Subway Rails it might fit neatly in the context of Techno, but without that motivation that sense of experimentation you find behind the music, often leads to some deeper cognitive layer. In some perfect post-modernist interpretation it can certainly be taken at face-value, but just beyond that lies an ideology derived from culture and context. It’s not Techno as obvious loop-based functionality, but  a heady confluence of art and music, for those ready to seek it out. At the same time all of that is completely immaterial in the context of representation. 

As he continues to move “in the direction of dance music” through his SGurvin project, especially with Full Pupp, this connection becomes more tenuous compared to something like Turn/Return or Trouble Every Day, but with an artist like Sigurd, it gets increasingly harder to separate the work from the person, and as you talk to him you realise, that spark of something innovative or different that might have drawn you to his music, is only fully realised in the context of the artist behind the work. Ostensibly it might be nothing more than Techno, but from the first sentence he spoke that desire to reconstitute the gallery in a club his work as SGurvin remains infallible in the context of his conceptual pursuits.

It’s time to make some noise with Helene Rickhard

“It feels like now I have a chance to make some noise,” says Helene Rickhard over a telephone conversation, inhaling the sentence like she’s taking a drag from a cigarette. She’s just moved back to her hometown Arendal, and I imagine her sitting in some remote location on the outskirts of the southern Norwegian town in the midst of a sprawling record collection that consumes every inch of where she lives. 

She’s back in Arendal after spending years in Oslo, and like many of our peers, has used the pandemic to relocate and re-adjust. “The pandemic changed everything for me, and the lifestyle in Oslo changed a lot,” she says. “So I ended up selling my apartment there and bought a house in Arendal.” She’s still just settling into the familiar terrain, but she’s determined to use the opportunity to “focus more on creating music.” With concrete plans to build a studio in the new house and some vague plans to set up a label, Helene Rickhard is entering this new phase of her life with some excitement and some trepidation. It’s “scary to have all these plans,” she considers, ”and then you have to do it eventually.”

Over the last few years in Oslo, she’s  made a name for herself on Oslo’s music landscape as a DJ with a style all her own and more recently as an artist making music as an extension of that style. 

Helene Rickhard would feature on nights where the tone would be left of left-field, with a sense of intrigue and originality setting her apart from even some of the other DJs on the flyer. Sonic journeys through early synthesisers and drum machines conspire through re-constructed pop arrangements that live in the obscure shadows of synth pop and synth wave. There’s something nostalgic, even in the new music she plays, and she weaves these expressive tracks together in a cohesive mood that permeates through mixes like this latest, we recorded during Øya Natt in 2021. Foregoing the ubiquitous beat matching style of today, she plays each track in its entirety, giving the listener a unique introspective view of her individual tastes, which is in every set she plays, regardless of where she might find herself in the lineup. 

“I’ve always been an eager collector of music, since I was a child,” says Helene of the origins of these tastes a week after she played the opening set to Øya Natt at Jaeger. Growing up in Arendal to artist parents with a penchant for classical music, “popular music was extremely exciting early on,” for a young Helene. “It started with cassettes,” she remembers. “Making mixtapes via the radio” and buying tapes from catalogues a collection started to grow, which eventually included vinyl, cds and more recently MP3s and armed with all this music, you’d be forgiven for thinking a career as a DJ was just waiting in the wings, but that would only come much later… 

As a child of the eighties it was the “electronic sounds” of hissing synthesisers and dusty drum machines that set the tone for her earliest influences. When she eventually heard Kraftwerk, “it was mind-blowing,” and she dropped 7 years of piano lessons when she by her own account had “learnt nothing” to focus all her attention on getting her first synthesiser. With an early Korg synthesiser and Akai sampler manifesting around 15 years of age, Helene has been “tinkering with all kinds of synthesisers and computers” ever since. 

For as long as she’s been tinkering on synthesisers and collecting the exotic electronic sounds of electronic music, Helene has been “involved in the club culture” and has known DJs. She, alongside a group of friends “threw the first rave party in Arendal, in 1993” for example and although the fascination with Djing existed from an early age, back then Helene was quite happy to spend a night “on the dance floor and listen to other people” play.  

…“I was 35 before I started Djing,” recounts Helene today at 43 years of age. In a culture that has recently only seem to mature, 35 is still very young, but Helene’s experiences with making music and collecting records gave her an uncanny advantage in the DJing scene in Norway.  Yes, she’d been a recognised artist, working in the cold tactile environment of dark ambient, releasing records for the likes of Rune Linbæk’s Drum Island records and Center of the Universe’s Metronomicon Audio label before attempting to DJ, but what she developed as a DJ set her immediately apart from the others, due to her esoteric collecting habits.

“I was making music before I started DJing, because I was so scared,“ explains Helene of her delayed inauguration into the world of DJing. Fear of performing, didn’t stop Helene getting involved however, at a rudimentary level at least. She would make mixtapes for herself, and some of those made it onto soundcloud where eventually peers and friends suggested she should start DJing out. “I was like ‘oh no,’” recalls Helene, but after some persuasion she caved and thought, “I have to try.” 

She remembers her first set out, or more accurately she remembers the “black-out” that ensued. It was incredibly “nerve wracking” and she clearly recalls thinking at the time; “I never want to do that again.” Luckily she persevered and today she plays regularly, from club locations in Oslo to festival stages in Bergen. She’s featured on esteemed platforms like Lot Radio and Hjemme med Dama’s mix series and DJing has played a role in the drive to feature her original music on record labels like Snick Snack. 

She remains nervous when it comes to DJing, but she “prepares a lot” to overcome some of that anxiety. Pouring through her records, always “looking for something new to play,” Helene is a self-proclaimed “junkie when it comes to songs” and requires something new all the time. That’s the collector in Helene speaking. “If I bought 20 records one day it’s old the next day. It’s a kind of hoarding” she proclaims. “I hate going with the same bag to play the same set.” And when she says new, she means “new for me.” The “golden era” of music for Helene remains that period, most of us are too young to remember, but have some innate impulse towards. For Helene this is music made between ‘77 to ‘83 made from the early sounds of affordable synthesisers and drum machines. 

During the pandemic, without being able to go to a record store, she had to turn to the digital outlets and platforms like bandcamp for music. Through those efforts, she’s found newer labels and artists making the same music and she’ll often mix these pieces in with their older counterparts.  Even so,  “a lot of the new stuff sounds like it was played in ‘83” says Helene through a hearty chuckle.  It all actually sounds like Helene Rickhard. 

She is a unique entity in an increasingly homogenous landscape, and even while she goes through different phases in her musical tastes, her “self-indulgent” tastes never sound like anything else around it. “That’s some kind of personal thing” she remarks and “it has a lot to do with emotions” for Helene. Lately, she’s very into the “cosmic balearic sound, because, it’s very free” and she can piece elements rather than sounds together through her mix as she moves through uncharted territory of her own visceral response to the music. “Sometimes I find myself playing super weird stuff” says Helene questioning herself with “what the fuck am I doing,” but it’s all part of the intrigue of her sets, and often makes for some of the best moments in her selections.

She’s still fairly new to DJing in terms of playing out, so it is a constant point of evolution and education for Helene Rickhard, and from these warm up sets she’s played at Jaeger to “dance slots” she’s been enjoying recently, she is impulsively adaptive. “It changes all the time” with her “moods,” she remarks and a mood quickly solidifies around a selection of songs. This is why she also foregoes beat-matching in her mixes. “I’m more into moods and harmonic mixing, than the regular beat mixing.” she explains. Always one for “a bit of drama in her sets,” Helene considers herself “more like a selector” than a DJ, and while we know she can, she’ll avoid beat-matching in favour of creating some some sense of suspense in “musical connection between the songs” rather than a simple rhythm based link.

It’s a lifetime’s worth of musical knowledge coalescing around a couple of record players with Helene Rickhard echoing through every track. There’s something intriguing, mysterious and visceral of the past in every track, and while her sets might differ from one night to the next, there’s always something appealing and something new to explore through the rabbit hole of her extensive musical knowledge. 

Diving through a Helene Rickhard mix is a trip. It’s a journey through the personal, clouded in some abstract swathe of musical colour. Nothing concrete ever really emerges, but there’s a distinctive emotive quality to her mixes and by extension her music. 

Asked whether DJing has had an effect on the music she’s produced recently, she says “absolutely.” “I like a mysterious, psychedelic sound,” she explains; “A bit dark and I tend to like to dance to slower music.” Apart from featuring on a few VA’s over the last few years, Helene has yet to bring out an EP or even a single, but that looks set to change as she settles into her new home and establishes her new studio. She claims she has “tons” of unfinished projects gathering dust on her hard drive and she’s looking forward to getting them out to the labels that request them. 

The new home studio will be a place where she can work on music, unconcerned about noise complaints from the neighbours, and it seems that it might predicate a new creative phase in Helene Rickhard’s life. Labels are continuously knocking on her door, and having featured on compilations for Hjemme Med Dama, Snick Snack and Hærverk Industrier recently, her music has been reaching a wider audience. Imbued by a new confidence that comes from DJing, where she can “step a bit to the side and see your own music objectively,” she’s found it “easier to finish stuff now.” More importantly however it’s the sound of her sets that have started filtering into her music. Moving on from the dark ambient music she was making before, Helene feels she is “more sure about the sound or the aesthetics” she wants and like her DJ sets, it’s music that reflects her personality and her esoteric tastes. 

There’s certainly and ensuing noise to come from the artist, and even though she might have relocated, she’ll continue to have a presence in Oslo and Norway’s DJ scene. Between Djing and music, Helene Rickhard it seems, is only just getting started. 

This is House music: Introducing Henrik Villard

There’s no mistaking it for what it is… this is House music. From the emotive depths of the bass to the sparkling clicks of the syncopated hi-hats, there’s no confusing Henrik Villard’s music for anything other than House music. He’s been toiling away in the deeper registers of the genre since 2017 after making his debut on Nite Records and has stayed the course, pursuing a sound that pays homage to the roots of House music through contemporary voices. It’s a sound steeped in the traditions of House music and would do well coming from one of the genre’s older statesmen, let alone a fledgling talent like Villard’s. It’s a prolific talent at that with over a handful of EPs and a fair few singles coming from the producer in the first years of a still young career. 

“I try to make music everyday, because I just love to,” says Henrik about his prolific output over a telephone call. He’s been fortunate to get his music out there with a “bunch of labels that like the music” requesting releases from all over Europe and a select few like Mhost Likely, Moskalus and Two Five Six Records recently enjoying the privilege of releasing Henrik Villard’s records. “I feel that I’ve been lucky,“ suggests Henrik in what I can assume is only modesty, because this is more than luck. There’s something natural in the way Henrik’s music sounds with an instinctual grasp on House music from the first record to the latest.  There has had to have been a lot of work to get to this point in his career, which is especially remarkable for someone still in the grips of the early stages of a career. 

The House that Steely Dan built

Henrik Villard grew up in Kolbotn, a satellite town to the south of Oslo. His father was a music enthusiast and a fan of yacht rock specifically, soundtracking the son’s formative years on the saccharine sounds of the likes of Steely Dan. It took Henrik on a path towards rock music, and eventually towards heavy metal through his teens, when he first picked up a guitar and started plucking away at those fundamental musical foundations. “Playing by ear, and learning from the other kids,” turned into various afterschool project bands before he would eventually leave the guitar in its case, as the sounds of a new genre of music coerced him down another path. 

“At eighteen I got into EDM,” says Henrik. “Avicii and Swedish House mafia” was the turning point from the heavy saturated sounds of the guitar to the sterile pallets of electronic music. It was the sound of EDM that first drew Henrik to computer music and encouraged him to become a producer. “After hearing modern EDM music, I wanted to be able to create that sort of music myself,” explains Henrik. A youtube tutorial laid the initial building blocks and “it worked well and didn’t sound too bad,” he remembers today. “I guess if I were to open that project right now” he starts before trailing off in a contemplative chuckle. 

“Would you say you’ve drifted away from that kind of music?” I proffer. “Yes!” comes the immediate reply through a breathy laugh.

Around 2015 the music of “Amine Edge & Dance and their label CUFF”  drew Hernik away from those base EDM sounds to the roots of the genre and that “classic style of House” that he himself creates today. “To me they had a raw (in terms of energy) sound, ” explains Henrik, “and (although) it leans toward tech house to a certain degree – to me, their sound definitely took a lot of inspiration from classic house sounds (drum machines like 909 and 707, bass sounds from dx7 and such).” He “realised after a while that the sound was a bit too clean and techy” for him, and started moving towards something more “chilled out” sounds in the lo-fi arena where artists like Kaytranada lurked. Enamoured by these deeper sounds of the genre, Henrik applied himself to the internet for music theory and piano lessons, building on the little he knew of music from the guitar in a quest “to understand music from a technical point of view.” He “wanted to be able to play chords and notes” on the keyboard, jamming out “ideas with recordings“ and turning those into songs. 

A House of his own

It’s that craftsmanship for songwriting, built from human impulses that sets Henrik’s music apart from his contemporaries. There’s a slow-burning visceral mood that underpins all his tracks, and even while they might be built from loops, each loop is imbued with that human touch, bringing a sense of depth to the fore in his productions. Those instincts culminate across a series of EPs, the latest of which comes from Bergen record outfit, Mhost Likely. Bass lines carving deep trenches between kick drums lay deep foundations for sparkling keys and disembodied samples, cultivating a serene mood and humid atmospheres across three tracks. It’s his first release for a Norwegian imprint and it appears he’s in good hands with the label as Henrik can’t stop singing the young label’s praises. He “really appreciated how professional they are” in producing feedback and insists that this “was really essential in developing songs into better versions of what they were.”

With the next release coming from another Norwegian imprint called Klimakunst, Henrik is forging stronger allegiances with the larger House community at home after releasing most of his music on labels outside the country during the first few years. It coincided with a move to Oslo a few years back, encouraging Henrik to get “in touch with other producers in Oslo,” which has built itself into a small network of “other people with similar interests.” But it took Henrik a while to find a community of kindred spirits at home, establishing a connection to the community outside of Norway first.

It was around 2017 when he first started producing music with serious intent. Living in Trondheim at the time, he felt somewhat isolated from what was happening at home in terms of House music, and reached out over the internet to other producers. He quickly found a friend and mentor in the form of Finnish producer Selidos and after establishing a connection as a fan, Henrik sent him some musical ideas for feedback. Unbeknownst to Henrik at the time, Selidos was also the A&R man for a small American record outfit, called Nite Records, and while Henrik was looking for nothing more than constructive criticism, Selidos found something in the music that he could put out on a record. “I owe it to him” says Henrik about his first record, Takterrasse.

“That was the breakthrough in how I wanted my music to sound,” recalls Henrik today. Building on those House foundations, focussing on the deeper elements, with a human touch ebbing through the arrangements, Henrik Villard found a sound that he’s not deviated from since. “It just felt right after I laid down the main idea” for Henrik and it’s only matured and solidified since. Between the labels he wants to release on and the labels knocking on his door, there is no shortage of platforms for Henrik’s music. He doesn’t “know how to explain it,” but it’s given him the opportunity to focus much more on music. He’s gone from working full time to part time in an effort to spend more time on music, and the pandemic turned out to be “great in terms of getting more time to make music.”

Just hit play

Yet, even though he’s making more music, Henrik stresses “quality over quantity.” “I can take my time, and I don’t feel the need to put out music all of the time.” says Henrik. “You have to find the balance between doing a solid release and doing a lot of releases.” It’s this mantra he’s extended to his latest endeavour, a record label, event series and collective he’s founded with Anders “Clastique” Hajem. In his efforts to connect more to a local community since moving back to Oslo, Henrik found a kindred spirit in Anders, and the pair have set up a collective and a label Bitch Club Records. ”I think that’s what we’re called” says Hendrik hesitantly. “You don’t sound that keen on the name,” I suggest. “No, because I’m unsure how it will be perceived by anyone who hears the name… I like the abbreviation more.”

BCR, like everything, started with a chat over the internet. Exchanging ideas about music over soundcloud, an invitation to 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 and Anders have established a small community around BCR over the course of the last year. “The idea is that we release music that we like,” says Henrik and theirs is a determined force. Encouraged by their similar tastes in House music, they are able to get the “music out there for everybody to hear” without the extensive waiting period that usually comes with putting out records on other labels. 

As the label started to come into ficus so did their events. What started as inviting “some friends over to play music all night long” from their studio, has  turned into regular occurrences of late. “That’s when I realised that I really like DJing,” exclaims Henrik. Besides making more music, he’s also used the time of the pandemic to hone those skills as a DJ through the BCR concept. He says it’s “a great feeling to see people react to what you play,” and while it’s always “hard” to play his own music, lately he’s “been much better at incorporating” his tracks in his sets recently. These sets don’t often extend outside of the BCR concept, but with an upcoming gig at Jaeger for Øya Natt alongside Olle Abstract, that is certain to change in the future. He’s nervous, but “looking forward to it” trying to “mentally prepare” for this set out of his natural “comfort zone” which is BCR. 

I am confident however that Henrik’s set will not disappoint. Between the music he makes and this conversation there is something reassuring about Henrik Villard’s work. It’s something familiar and comfortable. It’s simply House music and it’s rooted in everything he does. His music goes back to the roots of the genre, maintaining those essential formulas that will undoubtedly live on forever through each new generation, and now it’s Henrik Villard’s turn to fly the banner for the music tradition. And whatever he does next, here will be no mistaking it for what it is… this is House music.

It’s 3 O’clock in the morning – Are we saving a scene or an industry?

It’s 3 o’clock on a Friday morning and I’m still on the dance floor at Jaeger. I’m stepping my way through a heady onslaught of 909 kick drums and toms in what seems to be a perpetual state of motion. This is unusual for me. It’s just before the pandemic would shut us down, and  I rarely come out for the visiting DJs at Jaeger at this point, and if I do, I don’t stay beyond the first hour of a set. Something told me I had to be here. This is Jeff Mills of course, a bonafide legend, playing to an intimate crowd in what is arguably one of the best sounding rooms in the world at the moment.   

I have seen and heard Jeff Mills before, but it was a truncated festival set, barely an hour long, through a sound system unable to cope with a light breeze, let alone the relentless pressure of Mills’ brand of Techno. I don’t remember the festival, or even which country it was in, and as I write  this, I feel that it might even be an amalgamation of two completely different experiences. It’s one of many experiences since I started working in music that has been facilitated by an industry that has been homogenising the electronic music scene for the better part of a decade. Where something like Jeff Mills should be a rarefied experience, it’s become so ubiquitous, dictated by social media trends and an increasingly institutionalised music industry, It not only undermines the significance of the event, but has completely killed any possibility of a virile, localised scene to exist.

Where something should be an occasion it’s become an expectation, and this expectation has come to dominate an international industry where agents, record distributors, and the music media have dictated the sounds of the dance floor rather than your local DJ. Festivals and club nights, focussing on booking the same headlining DJs, have gentrified European dance floors and eradicated any claim for a sub- or counterculture to exist. Any remnants of a scene has been co-opted by industry in a universal definition that has whitewashed any chance for regional eccentricities to mature in the microcosms of the local community. With dancers and enthusiasts flocking to DJs, as dictated by mainstream media outlets, proliferated by PR and booking agents, it has left no room for anything close to a “scene” to survive unless they adapt to the same universal sonic approach.

It’s this predisposition in the belief that a ”scene” is a universal community, with its roots in one or two, remote origins like Berlin, that have taken the agency away from isolated, nuanced musical communities; free from the influence of a contemporary zeitgeist as proliferated by the extensive reach of the internet. In this culture, DJ bookings determine club nights rather than the residencies providing the platform for these visiting DJs to perform and exist.

Earlier that evening, before Jeff Mills quietly assumed his position in the booth, Daniel Gude was in our lounge, playing a heady mix of Jeff Mills classics; those tracks tame enough to facilitate a crowd just stepping into the evening. Daniel is aware of his audience as one of the longest serving residents at Jaeger and a dab hand at Thursdays. He gently eases the crowd into the event, playing those archetypal Detroit sounds, where elements of soul and funk channel reluctant machines beyond perfunctory demands. It’s the type of music that you would have heard any Thursday night at Jaeger, but Daniel wrestles the dynamic sounds toward temperate tempos and restrained volumes, accommodating the nascent crowd and encouraging them to move to the lower level, where local Techno stalwart, Jokke is currently playing through a determinable vinyl collection. The needle seems to saw its way through the pliable shellac, unearthing jack-hammer rhythms and sneering bass-lines. Jokke is keeping the beats per minute in the high 130s, greeting people to the floor, with waves and high-fives, people I recognise from other local Techno gatherings, but who I hardly ever see at Jaeger. 

There’s an unlikely bonhomie in the air for such an event. The cooler-than-thou Techno brigade, spending weekends in Berlin and weekdays trolling through Resident’s Advisor’s self righteous dribblings about music. The foundation is vibrating with low murmur to Jokke’s records, playing music from a collection that grew out of a savant-like enthusiasm for all things Techno. Jokke was an early adopter of this latest wave of popularity for the genre, as one of the people behind the Void club nights and for a while, Jaeger’s go-to Techno DJ. He’s played alongside the likes of Funktion, Sterac and now Jeff Mills; the vinyl enthusiast and DJ often out-shining some of the more expensive bookings. For the occasion he’s picked his way through the Detroit corner of his record shelf, fortified with rarities from the Underground Resistance catalogue. There’s some sympathy with his audience, giving them enough room to move, while slowly increasing the energy for his successor.

We’re all here for the main event, Jeff Mills, but without Jokke, and Daniel’s residency there would be no night to facilitate it. It can’t exactly exist in a vacuum, with the infrastructure of a local scene required to stage an event like this. In the background, Jaeger booker and owner, Ola Smith-Simonsen is aware of the risk of putting on an event like this, but he’s grinning. Jeff Mills is an expensive booking and even with a packed crowd, Jaeger is losing money. As a resident DJ with his own Friday night residency, Ola could have booked Mills for Frædag and have made a much more profitable night, but Retro and it’s weekly thematic pursuit in shining a light on the original vanguard in the electronic music community, made more sense. His instincts paid off. The night lives on in infamy for those who were there, and I still hear people echoing my thoughts as they conjure the night in their words; “when would you ever get the chance to hear Jeff Mills in a small club like this.”

Before the pandemic struck, Jaeger’s calendar was filled with more bookings than usual, because of that expectation of a “headlining” DJ. It was at a point where it seemed that bookings determined the quality of the night for audiences rather than the night and the space.  DJs playing loops from three decks or more in an endless reaffirmation of the 4-4 beat, forge flatlining soundtracks for perfunctory dance floors, with audiences either hanging over their shoulder in search track titles or completely disengaged as they stagger towards the next hangover or sexual conquest… whichever comes first. They are only here because the DJ has gained some notoriety of late; a track or online-set, together with some backing from notable label or media outlet pitching the scales in their favour. 

These DJs have become like the reality TV stars; fame is only a picture away and technology has democratised the skill-set to something like paint-by-numbers for adults. Whatever happened to the art of DJing? I was never truly convinced it was an artform and especially in the age of the CDJ, but some individuals have been more adept at programming a night of music for an enthusiastic dance floor than others. With a focussed, at times obsessive appreciation for music, they’ve managed to hone it into a unique craft. Many of these DJs are, or have been residents. They cut their teeth playing to the same audiences week in and week out, unlike the next generation who are coming to the fore, already “touring” before they’ve even seen the inside of a booth . Even the term resident has now become conflated as one of these DJs coming to the same venue three or four times a year. Those aren’t residencies, those are just sheer hubris from DJs believing their own hype. People didn’t go to Paradise Garage for instance to see David Morales, they came to see Larry Levan, because of his inherent knowledge of music, his relationship to his audience and the hands-on approach to the club and its soundsystem. Larry Levan was a pioneer in many of those aspects and that’s why his reputation still precedes him today. In Oslo DJs like Daniel Gude, Jokke, g-HA, André Bravo and Øyvind Morken are cut from that same cloth, even though they might bring different moods and sounds to their nights. n lieu of manufactured celebrity they had to graft at their work, garnering an innate bond between the music they play, the audience and the atmosphere. 

That skill is still there amongst some, but it’s been saturated by a virtual scene predetermined by social media and industry, where every middle class kid with a USB stick and a successful instagram account is a DJ today. The music has become mere surface noise to the celebrity of the DJ and as a result the music has suffered. I am rarely able to distinguish these DJs and their sets, as the music gets diluted down to its simplest forms so as to not supersede the ego of the DJ. There is no defining characteristic in music subjugated by their sense of artistic identity, imposing the culture of the DJ on the dance floor rather than the music. 

With DJ fees before the pandemic reaching an average of around €3000, not including the flight, the hotel and the 15% he agent asks on top of that, the industry has ensured to install the idea of the DJ as celebrity at all levels for the sake of their over-inflated economy, that makes a few key individuals richer on the back of the people sweating it out at the lower levels of club culture. Intentionally or not, this takes the necessary economy away from a local scene to thrive. It takes the job and the money away from an equally skilled, often better local DJ, who is forced into doing support or opening slots at a fraction of those fees, because they might not have the same social-media driven pull of their more expensive counterparts. How did we get here?

A status quo has been installed, calling the shots from Berlin, London et al. Perpetuating the idea that an artist/DJ with a release on a high-profile label, a featured article in an on-line magazine and a recent set at Panorama bar is somehow better than the resident DJ with years of experience and intimate knowledge of his/her crowd and club, the industry has forced the idea of the “booking” on smaller scenes in order to compete in an increasingly saturated economy. All over the world clones of Berghain and imitations of archetypal DJs (Harvey, Villalobos, Väth, Mills)  are increasingly narrowing the talent pool to familiar DJ rosters in the hands of a select few agencies. High-profile DJs dominate these rosters, garnering their position through irrelevant factors. While some of them, like the aforementioned in parenthesis, got to those positions through talent and as elder statesmen of the original scene, it’s become increasingly dictated by what a PR or booking agency deems their next big payday. A lot of the time the celebrity of a DJ is predetermined by agents, managers and labels who have a vested interest in creating a lot of hype around their DJs to get bookings, by buying their way in. 

This holds the position of power with a universal industry rather than a local scene and as younger audiences and new promoters and DJs come into music, this is the only model they know, and adapt accordingly, even in remote places like Norway. Those nuanced, focussed conditions that made it possible for a genre like Space Disco to exist, is no longer possible, since people are working within complete isolation of the internet, following a model of a club night and its music, which is not always that transferable in a different region and very rarely as good. For example, while those big-room Techno sounds that shake the cavernous rooms of communist-era factories every weekend might work there, they don’t work in a smaller room with fewer people and an early curfew. Those things that make Oslo unique and created the perfect conditions for Space Disco to exist are largely ignored for a universal approach, relayed down from the mountain of some indeterminable consortium of media outlets, labels and agents. 

DJs like the residents that graft every week at Jaeger, are of a dying breed and even DJs established in an international circuit like Øyvind Morken don’t find any room to operate within their own community, as younger DJs buck to trends directed by an increasingly institutionalised industry, where conformity to the most recent “hype” dictates their bookings and the music on the dance floor. Everything has become incredibly entrenched, and as the pandemic seems to ease out of its restrictions it seems that they’ve only fortified their ranks. Even the DJs, clubs and club nights operating on the fringes, are operating on the fringes of an extended universal scene with any idea of a community, barely existing in the superficial vacuum of social media. I simply can’t see a way out of this current situation. How did we get here?

It’s 3 0’clock in the morning and I’m on the dance floor. It’s 2008 and I’m in London’s east-end  at On the Rocks, a former working men’s club, which is the host for this week’s Trailer Trash event. One of the speakers on the left side has just blown, rattling in its enclosure like a klaxon in a plastic bag while the DJ, Hannah Holland is playing a blend of classic acid House and a new UK-based Ghetto tech sound she’ll later coin Batty-Bass. The lysergic 303 bass is trying to punch a hole through the noisy speaker, but the packed dance floor and the DJ seem unphased, pushing triumphantly through the noise as some promotor-cum-technician sets about replacing the speaker.   

It’s the recession, and yet I’m going out every weekend. Even though I’m already older than median age at the nights I attend, it’s one of the most exciting times in terms of clubbing for me as I’m catching the last intense flicker of a real scene before it’s almost completely eradicated by gentrified apartment blocks with pretentious names like “vanguard” and a street of “Urban Outfitters”  selling dubstep records. Plastic People is still there, but not for long as Shoreditch is already filling in the cracks with boutique clothing stores and gastropubs cropping up on a daily basis. On the outskirts however, Hackney Road, Dalston and Hackney Wick is brimming with a new young energy and something interesting is happening at the intersection of fashion-, DJ- and queer culture. The fashionable kids, having just read/seen Party Monster, are co-opting New York’s early party-kids aesthetic and together with a rolling roulette of local DJs are appropriating old man’s pubs, strip clubs, empty warehouses and squats to throw parties. All around London’s east-end music, performances and fashion converge every weekend for the students and new art-school emergés currently renting cheaply in council estates.

The recession is in effect, but everybody at these events is broke anyway. I have £20 a weekend, and I’m not spending £15 of it on the door at Fabric, to hear some over-paid DJ ego-tripping through a tone-deaf Tech-House set. I’d rather spend my weekends listening to over-taxed PA systems straining under the weight of ghetto tech, acid house and electro, playing in impromptu venues around my local area for a procession of ”freaks” moving on the dance floor like a catwalk, at the more affordable rate of a fiver (or free if you know somebody) on the door and £3 a drink. 

After a decade of clubbing being the sole domain of super clubs and superstar DJs this is clubbing and club-music going back to the bare-boned, white-knuckled roots of the scene. There is no headlining DJ, or specific musical theme, but everything from the flyer to the covergirl is imbuing the spirit of the party. Resident DJs, often playing extensive all-night sets cloaked in the darkness, do their due diligence, playing bass-heavy constructions while forging a sense of trust with their weekly/monthly audiences. The recession has levelled the playing field, killing off most of the big clubs in the space of a year, with only places like Ministry of Sound luring uninformed tourists every weekend; their prominence based on an ancient, hyperbolic reputation born before most of their punters. It’s broken club culture down to fundamentals again with a DIY attitude and people creating club nights for a community rather than platforms for headline-grabbing guest DJs.

It was an intense two-year period, where I don’t think I ever left the E2 postal marker, and it was its own little contained world and counterculture. Leafing through MixMag and DJ Mag at that time, it’s the fall out of the summer of new rave and Deadmau5 and Calvin Harris are grabbing headlines for their bastardisation of Filter House, while in the more serious “clubs” that innervisions Tech House sound is staking its claim. Dubstep has already been co-opted by the middle class elite at this point, and is facing a commercialisation that would see characters like Skrillex reaching billboard charts. On the margins however, avoiding the mainstream and completely disengaged with pop culture, while forging the next movement in popular culture, this period in London’s east end seems to exist in complete isolation. It’s uninhibited by the larger trends sweeping across the dance floor and it’s attracting people, who are living an alternative lifestyle.The naked reveller, the salacious sex fiends and the fashion kids, wearing American football garb as a defence against the conservatism taking a foothold in the UK, have created a verile counterculture and an actual scene for a short time in London’s east end, and unless you were there and part of it you wouldn’t have known about it. 

It’s almost impossible for a microcosm of a scene like this to exist today, even within a large population like that of London’s, because of the internet. With information being so readily available today, it leaves no room for a counterculture to exist. People will be writing about it before it even gestates, often with the fixed objective in creating a scene where none actually exists beyond a self-involved DJ. It’s why the term “underground” vexes me today. Nothing can truly be underground in the age of the internet, and if you’re using that term to describe your music or your night, it’s usually in some pretentious way that appropriates some original ideology, long-since unrealistic. What was originally underground culture is now popular culture… it has been for a while, and it’s been milked for the sake of an economy, and the only way we can get back to the community is for the industry’s demise. The only issue however is that there are too many invested in it for it to fail now. 

Those two years in London, Space Disco, the M25 raves, Detroit Techno, Chicago House and Paradise Garage, these were fleeting moments of brilliance in a history of electronic music that went to define cultures. They were never meant to last beyond the generation that installed them in their time of adolescence. Today however an increasingly profitable industry has commodified what should be a culture, with clubs, DJs and festivals lasting way longer than their expiration date. It has left no room for subculture to exist without paying its dues to the industry and the entrenched status quo of club music. 

It’s 3 0’clock and the dance floor is empty and the soundsystem is off. It’s the time of the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about saving a scene. But is it really a scene or simply an industry we’re saving at this point? Nothing seems to have changed and it seems that any promise of a pandemic changing this perspective is moot. Any delusions that we might have about some great cultural development should be realised for what it is. Everything from the music DJs make to their instagram profile is there simply to perpetuate the industry and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we’re all complacent in it. There are some trying to use this time to reflect on these aspects, but I fear at this point it’s a fool’s errand. Already prominent Berlin DJ’s are packing carryáll bags with 20 records and a USB stick to take a flight to their next overpaid DJ gig. 

The industry is too big to fail now, and any hope of a new local scene flourishing in the wake is going to be reduced when those high profile DJs are back at it, propped up by the “cultural” institutions big enough to secure their hand-outs. These established clubs, magazines, DJ booking agents and promoters have the resources and the prominence to ensure they’ll survive. They’ll continue to put DJs front and center that they believe should be in the limelight, and it’s these DJs that will be running the “main” room again when things open again, and the local resident that had grafted all year to keep the place open and operating. The things that are going to suffer are not the big clubs with huge investors, it’s the smaller DIY communities that barely stayed afloat before all this. 

Perhaps the problem is the idea of a “scene,” a word that has been used perhaps too liberally in association with club culture, with its origins in something very specific. The Oxford dictionary still defines a scene as “a social environment frequented by homosexuals.” By that definition, the few places that can lay claim to a scene are nights like Horse Meat Disco or Honey Soundsystem, and like everything else, the industry has merely co-opted the term for the association. This culture might have been born from a bonafide scene with the likes of Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan as the founders, but it’s long since been appropriated by an industry, using counterculture language and themes for the sake of commercial success, commodifying the term “scene” to where it can mean anything related to electronic club music.  

This isn’t a scene any longer, it’s a business, and like all business it is predicated on the economy of the music and its culture. For all its aspirations of being a truly independent culture, it now operates very much like any major record label with its subsidiary agencies, PR companies and management consortiums all working towards the same model. There’s still this glimmer of hope that rests with the next generation, the people coming of age during the pandemic who will have a completely different perspective on a scene. Perhaps out of the ashes of the pandemic, they can strive to build an actual scene again, a scene that will eschew the importance of the celebrity DJ and the commodity of club music, and will get back to the dance floor and that sense of community. 

I’ve seen flickers of brilliance from them just before the pandemic, and it seems to be growing from a few, but determined actors in Norway at least. I have a lot of faith that the next generation will start to negate the industry for individuality again. With a DIY attitude and a passion for music, they’ve taken to the forests, with an emphatic admiration for the music, bringing people together that share that passion. They’re doing it on their own terms, making stars of local heroes again, finding some sympathy with today’s sounds, bolstered by their own individuality and the voices of their generation. They’ve taken some cues from the last generation, but carting funktion one systems to undisclosed locations and with a community of DJs that extend beyond national boundaries they are also bringing a sense of professionalism that had sorely been lacking in the past.  

If anybody is going to stop the wheels of industry churning up what’s left of this culture and spitting it out for the sake of commodity, it’s this next generation. They’re the ones that will save a scene.

 

Words by Mischa Mathys

Deconstructed club music: A Q&A with KOSO CLUB

*Photos by Martine Stenberg

It’s hard to get away from the four to the floor music that dominates Jaeger’s dance floor week in and week out. House and Techno et al have made indelible impressions that have subverted most other dance floor styles from making an imprint and while rarely homogenous it can often be a little stifling for more adventurous and eclectic tastes. 

Wednesdays at Jaeger have long been the welcomed break from this status quo with nights that feign the conformity of the dance floor for something a little different and since 2019 KOSO CLUB have been an integral part of this weekly sojourn to the fringes of club culture and its music. 

KOSO CLUB has been carrying the banner for a more diverse club life for the past eight years. They’ve been highlighting those integral, but often overlooked voices in club culture through an expanding cast of members that are SOLDAL, SVANI, PIIKSIGRAM and HANNEKS today. With an alumni that extends abroad with names like Mike Q and Zora Jones, they’ve established an international connection to Oslo and Norway’s own club culture.  

In 2017 they were awarded NATT og DAG’s esteemed club of the year for their efforts at Blå, which have seen the collective tour abroad, and start new franchises like the one at Jaeger on select Wednesdays. It was one such Wednesday in June 2021, when they made their return to the Jaeger’s booth for the first time in 2021, bringing their idiosyncratic blend of “deconstructed club music” and ideologies to what was still a dormant dance floor.

Even under the ongoing corona measures, they continued their unwavering efforts to bring a femme touch to the backyard and assisted by magnus ah ok, they brought an ecelctic selection of scatter-brain rhythms and growling bass-lines in their unique interpretation of what a club night could entail. Hip Hop re-constructed in UK bass flavours and House music emerging through wavy indie soundscapes provided the soundtrack for a night under clear skies for the largely seated audience. 

With the memories of the music and the mood lingering, we caught up with them shortly after via email to get the lowdown on KOSO CLUB, their ideology and their musical tastes. With a radio show in the works and more nights to follow we unpack what the past and the future hold for the collective.

How did you all meet and what encouraged you to start KOSO CLUB together?

 KOSO CLUB is a branch that grew from the KOSO family. KOSO started out with a wish to see a more varied and balanced music scene that later included artists, designers, dancers and other creative people. Marit, who had been DJing for some time, started the club concept in 2013 with Juno Jensen. Svani joined in 2015, and Piiksi and hanneks in 2019.

 How long has the collective been around and are there any activities beyond hosting club nights that you’re involved in?

 KOSO CLUB is a brand and a group of DJs, we book nationally and internationally, and are always on the lookout for new impulses and ways to make each night stand out. We have been doing some fun gigs in Norway and abroad besides hosting our own club nights at Blå. We’ve done dj workshops with kids, made merch and hosted live events.

 You all DJ, but do you have set roles within the collective outside of the booth?

Piiksi is our own little in-house graphic designer, hanneks is holding on to our monthly picks-playlist, and soon to come a collab with a radio station. Svani is constantly on the lookout for artists and DJs to book to our club nights, and Soldal is holding it all together kind of like a CEO of KOSO CLUB.

 PIIKSIGRAM and HANNEKS joined after establishing the concept. What did they bring to KOSO CLUB, and will the collective continue to expand into the future?

Bringing hannkes and Piiksi in was a natural process of sharing the same passion for the music and club. KOSO CLUB is a dynamic hub and by bringing in guests we hope to give more people a space for their creative outlet and that our audience can discover new artists and styles.

 You describe the concept as “highlighting more femme people” in the club space. How would you define femme people in this context?

When we started out in our perspective the scene was lacking women behind decks, the word femme was used to include not only cis women. In later years we see that the representation should also include others, our main goal is to see a more varied scene and the creativity that follows it.

 How do you set out to achieve that objective?

We always try to be aware of representation when we book DJs/artists to our club nights within our musical universe. We want KOSO CLUB to be an inclusive and fun place and a space that can challenge the idea of what a club night can be. It is important for us that it’s a safe space for anyone who would want to join them.

 Considering club culture has been appropriated by a straight male culture, what are some of the obstacles you face in putting on KOSO CLUB?

In the beginning there were few role models to look up to but we think this has changed a lot since we started. 

 Does it look like the landscape is still changing?

Yes, we see a lot of different styles and DJs appearing in the club scene, not only in Norway, but also in Europe in general. That is great to witness, and we hope it continues.

How do you relay that objective into the music you play or the guests that you bring to the concept?

 We try to be conscious about our bookings, our track collection and what we are bringing to the scene in terms of representation and inclusiveness. 

 Is it something that extends beyond the musical component too?

 In general we like everyone to feel at home at our club nights whoever they are. So it is also a social perspective to it. 

 When you play at Jaeger it’s nice to get a break from the four to the floor that dominates Jaeger’s weekly lineup. Is there a style or mood to the music you play that underpins what KOSO CLUB is about?

 We play a lot of deconstructed club music, and mix different genres, but we try to divide it into a chill mode and a club mode so the concept can work both sitting down as what we’ve done after the rona situation or in a dark club as we hopefully can do soon!

 Do you ever feel that you have to adapt the concept or what you play to Jaeger’s audience, current circumstances notwithstanding?

 No, actually we stick to the style we usually like to play. But, of course, we have to adapt to “sittedans” nowadays – we save our hardest tunes until the club is completely open again.

 How has the music evolved since the start of KOSO CLUB?

We think we have been in the same musical vibe since we started. But we are always checking out new artists and when they evolve our sound evolves also. 

 As we get back into it in 2021, what and who are you looking forward to bringing to KOSO CLUB in the near future?

Right now we’re dreaming of a packed club full of sweaty people, and we are hoping to do a radio show. We have a lot of people on our international booking-wishlist so hopefully we can proceed with actually getting them here in the future! 

 

Urban Psychedelia: Has Techno assimilated Goa Trance

There’s a great big honk as a saw tooth synthesiser stabs a chord and dissipates into the veil of the surrounding ether. The atmosphere is dense enough to sustain life and melodies echo through the entire arrangement like moths to a flame, landing on something familiar before fluttering off into distant resonances. There’s mystery, intrigue and a solemn wonder contained in each phrase, unfolding like a David Lynch narrative with a little more purpose. 

I’ve heard this sound before. It’s slower and it’s missing a semi-quaver bass-line running through the whole arrangement like a freight train, but the similarities are striking and there’s no doubt that whatever we’re listening to today lends as much from the psychedelic offshoots of Goa Trance as it does from Techno. I’ve been hearing these sounds echoing through Jaeger’s dance floor, as the city descended on our enclave this summer. It’s evocative of a sound usually found in the forests around Oslo or the beaches in India, propelling tie-dyed writhe figures to ecstatic heights as devil sticks and ribbons dance an improvised ballet in the air. 

It’s always feigned the urban for the natural, but in its new hybrid form it has found a rhythm in the city propelled forward by the more dominating foundations of Techno. It’s been propelled into the mainstream, by a new generation of DJs with the predisposition for the hippie lifestyle, growing up in the harsh urban landscape of a metropolis city, and like its predecessor, born in Goa, it borrows indiscriminately from a vast array of musical genres in pure escapist hedonism. 

Melodies touch the firmament, echoing at times space disco’s sonorous voice, while rhythms thump in militant measures to the wide-gated stomp of its audience. It’s unsure how or when these sounds started infiltrating Techno or if in fact it’s not the other way around, but as the week rolls by at Jaeger it’s a sound currently dominating the speakers through various, unrelated club nights and residencies. 

From the first moment man put stick to skin, music has always been about touching those hedonistic heights, and nowhere else is this better elucidated in Goa Trance’s origins; A style of electronic music, associated with a specific destination in pure pursuit of relinquishing the shackles of conformity for a pure spiritual pursuit. DJs and party goers alike have completely disappeared into the music and the aura of Goa Trance, with tales and legends born from fleeting characters that have immortalised the spirit, rather than a single individual. Figures like Laurent and Dr Bobby, armed with little more than a pair of walkmans were the pioneers, and while few have heard these names, everybody today exactly knows what Goa Trance is and what it stands for. 

It’s never really been about a specific style of music. Trance as in the German version of Techno, had been there before, and Goa’s earliest soundtracks have ties to the industrial synth pop sounds of Europe in the eighties, but combine this arching melodic sounds with a group of people imbued by sixties hippy romanticism in one of the nature’s most idyllic locations and you have something that extends way beyond any music. It’s a spirit and that spirit lives on today in a youth culture on their way to an enlightened trip. 

It could well have started in Berlin… don’t all things? German Techno and what we call Trance today, has always enjoyed a fluid relationship, but I believe spurred on by cheap bargain bin records, and an enthusiastic desire for something new, it’s now found a footing on an international stage. It’s moved out from inconspicuous shadows for niche audiences, to places like Jaeger, with DJs like Safira and Lente and their extended network of DJ cohorts perpetuating  the sound while new institutions like UTEKLUB continues to burr with the spirit around Oslo’s forests. 

This summer it’s started making further ground in Oslo too as weather and nature merge in the perfect backdrop for this music and this spirit to live on. Through this spirit individualism makes way for the unifying tether of music with spotlight-seeking identifiers disappearing in the wake of sardonic titles looking for an open platform. It’s an un-choreographed dance between a piece of music, a DJ and an audience, grown from something organic into a unified entity, where no-one thing subverts or dominates the others. 

Now, it lives beyond the forests and beaches of its natural habitat and has found a new place in the city, a true hybrid of some of electronic music’s most important chapters and looking well on its way  to writing a new chapter of its own. 

 

Back in Business: A mix and interview with Skatebård

Over 3 hours of uninterrupted Skatebård recorded live from our sauna.

You couldn’t keep Skatebård out of a DJ booth before the pandemic hit. The Bergen DJ was playing at least three times a week, travelling all over the world to some of the scene’s most revered and established venues.

Observations from his vigilant agent, queried the sustainability of Skatebård’s work ethic, with Bård dismissing suggestions of “taking a break” with playing more, and more frequently. By the time the pandemic hit he had been one of the most in-demand DJs on the scene. His amenable personality in the booth, where accessibility and function permeates with hedonistic pleasure, has secured Skatebård as one of the most prominent fixtures on the DJ circuit.

Then the pandemic hit, and Skatebård, like all the other DJs, was forced into the hiatus that followed. His indelible presence in the DJ booth, before proved to be prescient, and while DJs scrambled to social media streaming platforms, the Bergen-DJ could comfortably retire to his sofa with a good book and wait out the storm.

He kept at it, consuming new music where it informed his sets and honing his craft even further from his home-based hi-fi DJ set-up. He continued to play select dates, even making an appearance in Jaeger’s basement in 2020 for what turned pout to be the last night we could be open until 3am. Ultimately travel restrictions and lockdown rules had forced everybody, including Skatebård into forced hibernation.

Efforts to get him back to Jaeger when we could were left unsatisfied as quarantine measures and lockdown rules got more extreme during the winter. Eventually we had to take a page out of a Skatebård’s book and resign ourselves to the sofa, to wait out the storm.

The storm eventually dissipated and when we opened up the sauna in May and by Skatebård was on a very short list of guests we wanted back. By June he was int he sauna again, back in business, answering the call to the dance floor in pure Skatebård fashion. As our first guest outside of Oslo, there was a noticeable anticipation in the air and as Skatebård he didn’t disappoint. We pressed record and sat back and listened in awe at the enduring DJ.

It’s with great pleasure that we can present this recorded mix to our Mixcloud select subscribers today. Listen to over 3 hours of unadulterated Skatebård, while catch-up with the man behind the controls in a brief Q&A.

How does it feel to be back in business?

Feels really, really good to be playing again. But… It’s a while yet before full on travel will be possible.

What’s been the most challenging thing coming back into it after such a long hiatus?

It’s just a joy, I’ve been finding a lot of music to play in the last few months, that’s all I’ve been doing, so I’m just so ready to play all these tracks.

What did you have planned for this mix at Jaeger?

I entered the booth (tønna) with an open perspective, I can always go in many directions. But you know, my style is pretty eclectic most of the time anyway.

Did it go as planned?

It was a lot wilder actually, I was expecting maybe a more laid back night, I didn’t even know dancing was allowed in the backyard yet! With one meter distance though, mind you. But was a super energetic vibe.

I don’t think I ever saw you not smile throughout the night. What is it about a good night like that, that just makes it all worthwhile?

I was super happy, my first visit in Oslo since last August, and even a few of my band colleagues that I hadn’t met for almost two years showed up!

There’s a bit of everything in there. Was there a phase or a track that was a personal highlight? 

I was especially looking forward to playing Pais Tropical – Melodya. That piano riff… And a couple of other newly acquired italo house records. Well of course also some brand new tracks from friends!

Do you feel you’ve had to adapt or change the essence of a Skatebård mix in any way to accommodate the situation?

I always adapt a wee bit to any kind of party I play, but I mostly just play whatever I feel like anyway.

I saw a post on instagram suggesting that you’re ready to hit the road again. Is that the thing you’ve missed most?

Suggesting yes, but I also think I wrote something about that I don’t rush it either, so in the next couple of  months it will only be like a gig or two abroad a month, and outside Europe will be difficult for a while, I guess. But I appreciate everything! If you’re reading this and would like to book me, just contact my agency and we can work something out.

How do you think the DJ scene will change going forward from this, and what are you personally looking forward to in the near future?

I think that from both travel restrictions and economic perspectives, that parties will stay a bit more local for a while. That’s been my thought during the pandemic. In the near future I’ll enjoy the Norwegian summer, and I’m also very much looking forward to a festival in the Faroe Islands in the middle of July, then Trevarefest (Henningsvær), Summer Contrast Festival in Poland and Dekmantel Selectors in Croatia.

I can also add Festifest, Amsterdam, DGTL, Amsterdam, and Night Tales, London to my list of stuff looking fwd to. All in August/September.

Everything for the vibe: Introducing SYNK

There was a tangible excitement in the air that first week back at Jaeger. People were still resigned to their tables and the volume was tempered, but the atmosphere was thick with anticipation. “You could tell it had just opened again,” says Ida Stein from SYNK a week later. “People were so positive.” Warm welcomes precipitated through the bright night as old acquaintances were re-affirmed and social human contact re-established. 

“It was great to see people again,” says Naomi Camilla, weaving between her cohort’s sentences like they were going back to back in the booth as SYNK. They came prepared on the night, “hoping to play some electro/break-beat stuff” for the mostly seated patrons, but quickly realised that it wouldn’t work as an eager audience demanded something more energetic and the pair “jumped over to a House vibe.” Moving through the great expanse of influences that informed House music they set a distinct path through the genre, capitulating to the mood.

Mix now available to Mixcloud Subscribers

That mix is now sealed in time, and listening back to it today, it marks a very clear objective and concrete statement for the future of the dance floor after the pandemic. At a time when you’d think slower tempos and reserved energies would prevail, an obvious desire for the sounds of a  dance floor undermined the situation and SYNK acquiesced with a set that felt both urgent and inviting. Melodic flickers from disco’s earliest influences charmed alongside pulsating rhythms that moved through Garage, Acid, House, Trance and Electro phases.

SYNK has been a DJ duo since 2018, and while the pandemic has claimed the dance floor for the moment, it has shown no signs of slowing the duo’s progression as a formidable force on the Norway’s DJ scene. They added producer to their list of accomplishments after releasing their first single “Lykkemaskin” on Prins Thomas’ ever-present Full Pupp label in 2020 and have since been playing regularly around the country; made mixes for European radio stations; established residencies; worked on more music than ever; and most recently, started a new club night in Oslo. It’s ahead of this first club night at Mir, that I call Ida and Naomi up for a chat. 

They’ve found a shady spot in a park to take my call as Oslo’s early summer continues to cook the city, and while a tad nervous – “we have never been interviewed together”  – the pair are chipper and easy to talk to, the best kind of subject for an interviewer whose muscles have atrophied somewhat during the pandemic. 

Unlike me, however, Ida and Naomi have been busy and Ida suggests that they’ve “developed more into a producer duo in the last year,” in large part due to the pandemic. “We had these good vibes together and really wanted to dance,” remembers Ida of the moments right after the first lockdown. “Like other people in the club scene we really missed it… so the pandemic times really started off making some really danceable harder tracks…” “and some ambient tracks,” chimes Naomi from the other side of the phone. “It went through periods in the pandemic,” recalls Ida. “It felt like we went through an emotional musical trip together.” 

A “quarantine soundwave” playlist on their soundcloud page holds a remnant from this period. A chugging atmospheric track called “be my quarantine” is all that remains unclaimed by future releases and showcases both similarities and differences with their breakout single “Lykkemaskin.” Building on those eclectic notions they’ve formed in the booth together, they’ve channeled their music through an individual approach that focuses on inviting melodies and cosy soundscapes punctuated by challenging, percussive movements. “Our style is pretty eclectic as a producer and as a DJ-duo” confirms Naomi and while the pair call on a vast array of sounds, genres and styles, there’s an underlying feeling to their sets, which generally lends itself to the music they make today. In an email later, they confirm my suspicions that it’s something that they’ve both cemented from an early age in their individual musical experiences.

Ida and Naomi both grew up in what they consider a “small town” called Sandefjord. Both had taken an early interest in music albeit from different points of view. While Ida was “drawn into singing very early,” Naomi was an avid listener, consuming all she can from Beyonce to Dimmu Borgir. At around the age of 11 Naomi’s dad built her a dance studio in the basement with “some cheap speakers and different kinds of disco lights” encouraging the impressionable youth towards electronic dance music. She would be “dancing like a crazy person to Benny Benassi” in her basement enclave she remembers fondly today. 

Ida, it seems, took a slightly different path as an insular artist “creating her own world” through mediums that ranged from dancing and singing to “painting and writing.” It was pure expression at a time when “you sometimes as a kid feel like nobody else understands anything,” remembers Ida of the experience today. A microphone and a guitar fed that expression into music, where a laptop and synthesisers awaited just beyond. Ida played in bands and eventually moved into electronic music through electro-pop as an established solo artist before meeting Naomi and forming SYNK. 

Ida feels those early introverted childhood experiences evokes a “nostalgic feeling” when she’s on the dance floor today, “cause one can get so brought back to that space – just that you’re not alone in it.” Although she is still working on her solo output which maintains an electro-pop aesthetic, Ida is also working “more and more” on SYNK as well as collaborating with Naomi on her solo work, having “merged” their artistic identity as SYNK.

They would eventually meet while Ida was a booking manager at Kurbadhagen and Naomi started DJing. Naomi had “been that girl at the party” for a while; the girl with all the music and an innate ability for musical narrative in a party setting. A few DJ friends encouraged her further and she found herself at Kurbadhagen in Sandefjord struggling to plug a pair of turntables into the predominantly digital setup. “I was super nervous,” remembers Naomi of her first gig  “and was asking Ida where I should plug in my record players.“ 

The pair became friends and started DJing together, bonding over Scandinavian Disco before quickly absorbing their individual eclecticisms. “It’s the feeling I guess and the feeling drew me in,” says Naomi with Ida re-iterating “the vibe” that continues to flow through their sets and music today. 

Moving from DJing to production, Ida and Naomi’s roles are more fluid than most DJ-production duos, sharing responsibilities based on practicalities. “I think because we use two different DAWs (recording platforms) we change between one of us setting up the recording and one of us having an analogue synth,” explains Ida who would be the more accomplished musician of the two, and who I had assumed would take on more of the technical roles in their music. That’s not the case however and as Naomi has just finished her first year in a production course in Oslo, and they’re working more remotely between Oslo and Sandefjord the dynamic in the group is more fluid than the general DJ-production duo.  

Things just “seem to come naturally” for Ida and Naomi when working together, and it’s something that had cemented itself early on in their working relationship. Going from Djing to production was effortless too. While  “drinking some beers” in Ida’s studio, something just clicked and the ideas just came “super naturally” to them. I ask if it’s easier with SYNK than with Ida’s solo project which relies on structured forms and defined melodies and Ida thinks about it before replying:I feel like it’s easier to just jump in and do it with SYNK. When we produce together, it can just happen a bit spontaneously and we’re a bit more free.” 

It’s that freedom that gives them the ability to forego style, genre and categories and produce everything for the vibe. “We started out without defining it under a certain genre,” explains Ida and they “just started off with a vibe… just experimenting.” It’s an attitude that allows Ida and Naomi to “produce what we want to” from the effervescent space-disco of Lykkemaskin to the thunderous onslaught of rhythms of their newest remix of Nattl4ampe’s “Nejjjj.” That remix for the Mhost Likely label is the first of a string of releases waiting in the wings according to Ida and Naomi.

As well as an EP on Full Pupp there are also those missing songs from the “quarantine soundwaves” playlist, and that’s just the news they can share with me right at this point. With club nights and some residencies that should come back after the pandemic, SYNK are sure to expound on their success in 2021. There’s a lot to look forward to from this young duo with established artists and tastemakers like Prins Thomas picking up early on their talents. For Ida, those things and the releases have at least confirmed some feeling that we were on the right track,” dispelling insecurities that they’ve both shared. 

Even so “the tracks we are working on now are a bit different from Lykkemaskin,” warns Naomi and that’s the confirmation transforming into confidence as the pair delve deeper and further into that eclectic realm of their mixes and merging as an artistic unity called SYNK.  

We’re Open!

We’re open Wednesday to Saturday from 16:00 -22:00 with DJs from 19:00.

We’re open! After what seemed like the longest winter, we’re back and the bass bins have been purring along beautifully this last week. As our residents and their guests have been re-familiarising them with the booth, we’ve opened the courtyard just as the  the sun started bearing down on Oslo. After a couple of weeks of spit and polish and a will they won’t they see-saw of emotion as Oslo kept delaying the eventual opening, we’re getting back into the groove and what Jaeger and the DJs do best

We’re open everyday from 16:00 with DJ’s every night from 19:00. Residents G-HA & Olanskii, Finnebassen, BigUP!, Prins Thomas and Ivaylo have thoroughly run the system through its paces with guest appearances from SYNK, Christian Engh, Kompressorkanonen and Spacebear adding to the excitement. The consensus is unanimous, we’re back in no uncertain terms.

There are still covid-19 protocols in place, but they are changing on a daily basis and we’ll keep you informed here as to how they develop. Please observe our cautions at the venue, and we’ll keep eking out the night and the volume as our lives slowly return to some sense of normality. We’re back and it’s good to have you back. You can check our programme page to find out what’s happening in the courtyard.  see you on the dance floor real soon.

PS.: If you’re the person in the picture, please get in touch with us at editor@jaegeroslo.no.

Greetings from Jaeger: We’ve been hibernating and dreaming of a dance floor

There’s a picture of an empty Jaeger basement that encounter on my computer every so often. It was taken late 2019, and the empty void lingers indefinitely in a reality today where the pandemic has taken an immense toll. Had I known it would be one of the last pictures I took of the basement, I would’ve waited for the crowd to flood in through the doors at least. The empty void is a stark reminder of the reality we find ourselves in, and god knows I hardly need a reminder…

None of us could’ve predicted the science fictitious reality that is 2020/21, least of all me. I remember listening to Jeff Mills in the basement only a few weeks before, like nothing in the world could touch us. And when Jaeger closed its doors for the first lockdown almost a year ago, I was naive enough to believe this would be nothing but a blip, and by the summer we would be back in business. Ola Smith-Simonsen was more pragmatic, saying “the optimist in me hopes that we’re drinking a beer at Øya festival in 2020.” Øya never came and summer went and now in the middle of winter, the dance floor is still in the abstract and the basement remains empty with a faint glimmer of hope that we will be back there in a couple of months.

Although if you’re inclined to believe the pragmatic Germans we’ll be lucky if we’re back to business as usual by the summer of 2022. That makes for some grim reading, but Ola is already hard at work towards a tentative start in May 2021 with a host of Jaeger residents and close friends in the booth again… fingers crossed.

Those first events in 2021 will come almost a year on from the first lockdown and Jaeger’s gone through many different phases since. Ola and co. have done their best to accommodate erratic measures subject to volatile infectious rates, to retain some semblance of a dance floor. From the lenient – listening to DJs till 3am in a seated position – to the downright drastic – the revocation of the license – Jaeger has remained steadfast in its pursuit of the dance floor and its music through some of the most extreme circumstances any of us has ever lived through.

Yes, it’s official… we’re living in the matrix today. We’ve taken a collective xanax disguised as a red pill and our lives have played out online in some virtual reality of our lives. From the uncomfortably safe confines of our “hjemme kontor” we’ve done everything from work to socialise and I’ve personally had enough. Those initial zoom “parties” and streaming sets all seemed so innocent at first, and now we’re stuck with them.  Even the bears had enough at some point. We’ve encountered some inspiring and some questionable actions in pursuit of a dance floor and a sincere focus on local musical talents in lieu of an international industry breathing down our necks. We’ve seen the human spirit eager to adapt to any circumstance and what became abundantly clear through it all is that no matter in what regard the conservatives of the world might perceive this music and its audience, the salient through is that it is a culture and its a stronger unifier than any “dugnad” could ever be.

We are a culture of people with introverted tendencies, and for many of us this is our only social contact with the rest of the world. As we’ve gone deeper into the pandemic we’ve become more reclusive, dreaming of a dance floor and for many our only connection to the outside world. The winter has been some of the most trying times, as we’ve become ensconced in our personal record collections and fond recollections of a heaving dance floor and an indomitable sound system that are now littering instagram feeds like NFT breadcrumbs back to a time when we had some dignity. Those “insta-memories” just don’t do it justice. The visceral sense of freedom that the dance floor instils and the primordial energy that ebbs and flows through a room like Jaeger’s basement is unique to the physical aspects. As Charlotte Bendiks quite rightly put it a few months ago on the very blog:“Music is such a physical experience.” It requires a physical presence and it in most cases it demands a physical reaction, a corporeal expression.

I wonder what the lasting social significance of the dance floor might be after the pandemic? As DJs and producers get older, have children, they’ve undoubtedly come to some serious introspective conclusion, which might even lead to a total abandonment of the culture for a career in… god forbid… marketing. What about the next generation in club music, surely this leaves very little incentive to indulge a hobby or a leisurely pursuit? What about the people that have been able to scratch a meager living from this culture? If the powers that be have their way, we’ll all be quietly compliant in our induction into the temp workforce.

One positive thing that I hope will make a lasting impression is the re-appreciation for the local DJ; s/he who through it all has remained a steadfast tastemaker for the dance floor in any shape or form, at risk of his/her own health during the time of the pandemic. Ola Smith-Simonsen has ensured Jaeger has done its fair share in providing a semblance of a living and a cultural verification for the local DJ during these trying times, and it’s something that he hopes to carry over past the pandemic. Because regardless of what people will have you believe, this is still a culture, and even when it gets corrupted in an industry there are still individuals and institutions pursuing a cultural pastime on a dance floor.

Under these most stringent lockdown measures for the last three months, that’s the crucial ingredient we’ve missed. Jaeger is not a bar, or a café, or a restaurant. The dance floor is where the culture cements itself, and that’s where the pandemic has hit the community the hardest. The dance floor was the first thing to go and it will by all accounts be the last thing to open. We’ve tried to accommodate the lockdown through all its different stages, even go as far to have it open without a license, but the there’s always been something missing and that is the dance floor and the people on it.

There might be some tentative plans to re-open in May (even without serving alcohol), but even then the dance floor is still a pipe dream until the vaccination process is completed and it is confirmed to work. We’ll try to open as soon as we can however, just to keep the pandemic profiteers from the door and ensure a future for a scene. Until then we’re dreaming of a day on the dance floor.

see you there…

Mischa Mathys

Norske Byggeklosser: Bjørn Torske introduces Trym Søvdsnes

It must take something special and unique for Bjørn Torske’s ears to perk up. The DJ and artist has cemented a legacy in House music in Norway, with a career spanning the great expanse of electronic club music as one of its most celebrated sons. 

From the small university town of Tromsø he was one of the first wave of DJs bringing this music to fjordian shores, and one of the first artists to export it beyond the country’s borders. As he moved from Tromsø to Bergen, he not only established House music in the region, but also played a significant role in establishing an individual Norwegian identity in House music, often referred to as Space Disco. 

With albums that rank in classic lore and DJ sets as intuitive as they are surprising, Bjørn Torske is nothing short of a legend in music. With credentials like these, when Bjørn Torske’s ears perk up so do ours, and when Ola Smith-Simonsen (Olanskii) proposed a Norske Byggeklosser event, Torske had a wildcard poised and ready.  

Trym Søvdsnes was his choice, and together they represent the establishment and the future of a flourishing Bergen music scene for House music and Techno. They’ve have been regular acquaintances in the booth, most notably sharing the bill at this summer’s Sofa House events in Norway.

Søvdsnes is a vinyl enthusiast with an eclectic approach as mixes he’s shared online demonstrates, drifting between the more abstract corners of House and Techno, blurring the fringes of dance music and listening music. With a focus on mood and energy he brings a dynamism to the booth that harks back to the classic roots of club music, the very same roots Bjørn Torske helped seed in this arena. After playing together as DJs, Torske and Søvdsnes expanded their collaboration to the studio when they remixed a track for Diego Carpitella’s album “Tarantismo: Odyssey of an Italian Ritual.”

With their first joint visit to Jaeger looming this weekend we sent out some questions to the elder statesman of House music to ask more about Trym Søvdsnes, about how they found each other, and what this means for the scene in Bergen in this Q&A session. 

How did you first hear of Trym and what was it about him that particularly drew you to his sets? 

Well, he and a friend started playing regularly at Cafe Opera in Bergen, and I took notice of their mixing of styles – somewhat dirty, rough techno and house fused with breakbeats and percussion, sounding quite unlike a lot of the other dj’s playing around Bergen at that time. I mean, locally we have a growing interest in good club music, and quite a few talented people. But Trym had an attitude in the music that is kind of rare these days, where people tend to sort of “polish” their style into perfection, well I feel Trym was a bit opposite to that.  

Why are you bringing him to Oslo for this particular night? 

I’ve been thinking for a long time that we sometime ought to play together in Oslo, I know he’s played a few times at Hærverk with the guys from Oblivion Dip, and so when Ola told me about “Norske Byggeklosser” and the idea of promoting Norwegian artists, that was a perfect occasion to make this happen. 

You’ve booked him, and played alongside him during one of the Sofa House events this summer.  What does a Trym Søvdsnes set sound like to you? 

Depending on the setting, of course, but slightly rough-edged, beautiful and often bound to surprise. 

And how does it compare to what you’re playing at the moment? 

It appears to me that we’re on the same wavelength according to mixing styles and creating a vibe that in some way could be reminiscent of the early styles of dj’ing – a “house (not house)”-approach to dance music.  

I hear a lot of old-school acid and Techno in his recorded sets, something which corresponds with  regional appeal at the moment. For somebody that was there when this music first came round, what  are your feelings towards this music today?  

For me the musical history and development has always been an expanding pallet as opposed to a linear string of events. It’s the sheer quality of sound and music that matters the most, there’s very little place for nostalgia in this for me. If it sounds good, I’ll play it, whether it be from 1990 or 2020.  

From what I’ve gathered through snippets on social media and his mixes, is that Trym is a vinyl  enthusiast and first and foremost, a DJ. What else can you tell us about his musical tastes and  attitude to DJing? 

He likes his vinyl, as I do, and he is an avid crate digger. He’s very good at finding stuff before anyone else, and if there’s a rumour of a new load of second hand stuff coming in to the local shop, he’ll be there first, no doubt, haha. Regarding taste and attitude, I feel it reflects my own – finding the hidden gems, being adventurous and curious in the pursuit of good music. Not being dependent on big hits or hype to play a good set. 

Do you see something of a younger Bjørn Torske in him? 

We just have a similar approach, I think. Age isn’t that important, and Trym definitely has a much broader taste than I had at that age.  

What is your musical relationship like outside of the booth; do you often share and talk about  music, and how would that go usually; like a conversation or more like a student and his pupil? 

We have been in the studio together on several occasions, and our first venture was a remix or rather a remake of some very strange old Italian ritual music. We also did a live studio set for Oslo Club Cast earlier this year, and that would be a good example of how we would be “talking” about music. To me  it’s just a well working musical partnership, where we bounce ideas back and forth. I guess I learn as  much from him as he does from me.  

What, if anything have you taken from your experiences with Trym?

Many good musical ideas, and the sense of playing the ball back and forth gives a lot, especially since I’ve mostly focused on solo work throughout my career. And I think he has the same non-competitive approach. No forcing of ideas, just playing around and letting the music speak for itself.  

What is the major difference in terms of how you got started in this music, compared to a younger  DJ like Trym’s experiences today, from your point of view? 

The presence of the internet, and the fact that there is a Norwegian scene for this music. It wasn’t back  then, the few of us doing this felt isolated on a lonely island in the north. And also electronic music wasn’t  widely accepted back then, quite different from today when you can actually get funds to do a PhD in  electronic music. 

What does he represent for the Bergen scene today in your opinion?  

The underground house music movement. 

Bergen must, like the rest of Norway, encourage a fair bit collaboration across genres, styles and  generations. What do you think this instills in Norwegian club music and culture that sets it apart  from other cities and countries? 

On one hand, it’s a good environment for experimenting and pursuing weird ideas. The challenge is to get a focus in all the diversity. I don’t think that the“next big thing” will emerge here, but probably a handful of  good and interesting music.  

Do you think it is something that’s ever reflected in your work as an artist?  

It suits me well, and yes, the musical openness has definitely influenced my approach to music.  There is room to both play and produce dance music in a broad sense.  

At least, I can see its influence in introducing an artist like Trym to the world, when you work  together like on your recent remix for the Tarantismo record.  What was it like working with him on a piece of music and has it cemented a working relationship that will extend beyond that record? 

Yes, we’ve been working together on some material coming out on Prins Thomas’ Full Pupp label early next year. I also mixed my next mini-album in Trym’s studio. I’m also planning to do few remixes of his stuff.  

Do you think that working on music together might feed back into the booth on the occasion when  you do play together for a set like the upcoming one at Jaeger? 

Yes, I think it does, and vice versa. Production and dj’ing are two sides of the same coin, and this has always been crucial to me – taking dj experiences back into the studio, translating the dynamics of a dance floor into the studio mix. And similarly, taking ideas born in the studio and applying them in the mixing of records.

How a scene is built with Charlotte Bendiks and Olivia Rashidi

Tromsø, has been an unlikely breeding ground for musical talent, with repercussions rippling through  Norway and the entire electronic music world stage since the early nineties. The small university- and fishing town up North, with endless dark days and an uncanny pool of talent, has cemented electronic music in the region, spreading it to the furthest reaches of an international scene, since first establishing its reign.

In Norway, Tromsø’s effect extends to Bergen and Oslo, with long tendrils of influence  connecting generations of musicians, DJs and artists, who continue to embody the original and unwavering spirit of that original scene. Two significant figures to emerge from this region are Charlotte Bendiks and Olivia Rashidi, both from Tromsø and carrying on a legacy that has motivated the community and keeps encouraging new artists and DJs to come to the fore. 

Olivia Rashidi met Charlotte Bendiks coming down a mountain in Tromsdalen, mainland Tromsø. “I was lost, and I met Olivia,” remembers Charlotte of the chance encounter with a chuckle. “My friends call me the de-tourist because I have the smallest hippocampus and I have a terrible sense of direction.” The pair struck up a friendship on the journey home, talking about music and DJing, a hobby and nascent career the younger Olivia had started exploring at that time.

The friendship blossomed into collaboration when Charlotte took on the mentorship role through the “Cloud Exit” talent programme associated with Tromsø’s Insomnia festival. Having established a career as a DJ and artist with ties to Cómeme, a residency at Jaeger and regular playing dates in places like Salon Zur Wilden Renate and ://aboutblank, Charlotte took on Olivia as a mentee, strengthening their friendship and a relationship that continues to bear fruit as Olivia’s own DJ career evolves and grows.

Olivia had just started receiving requests to play outside Norway, when the lockdown struck, while Charlotte’s own career continued to go from strength to strength alongside her younger apprentice. Today, they mark Tromsø’s latest musical exports, enjoying the ranks alongside the likes of Bjørn Torske and Rune Lindbæk, a feat even more impressive considering they are two of the few women coming from a historically male dominated culture.

Representing a blossoming career in Olivia Rashidi and a musical institution in Charlotte Bendiks, the pair constitute a bright and formidable future for club music in Norway, which looks to only consolidate around their individual works in the DJ booth. 

It’s this kind of relationship and these artists, that Ola Smith-Simonsen is trying lift up through the Norske Byggeklosser event series, and it was ahead of their appearance this Saturday, in our sauna, that we took the opportunity to talk to both Charlotte and Olivia in an extensive and all-encompassing interview, covering everything from the gender to the lockdown…you know, Mental Overdrive’s new track… 

* Charlotte Bendiks and Olivia Rashidi plays Norske Byggeklosser this Saturday. 

Are you still maintaining the mentor and mentee relationship today?

Charlotte: To be honest that was just a formality. Olivia and I had found each other and we were exchanging ideas and music before that, which usually happens in small cities like this. That’s how I started making music as well; you meet someone that’s older and more experienced and they show you and share their ideas. That’s how the scene is built. We are maintaining a friendship and sharing our stories of life in general. It’s more of an exchange than a mentor and menteeship. 

Olivia, Why did you feel that you had to go to an established DJ like Charlotte for this kind of relationship and not people within your own peer group?

Olivia: I don’t think it was that I couldn’t go to them. Charlotte is somebody that has always inspired me because she’s one of the few female artists from northern Norway. That’s why it was so easy to talk to her about it and in no way, are there people being exclusive. 

Charlotte: We have similar tastes in music.

Photo by Mats Gangvik

Olivia: I could relate to her in terms of music, but we also come from the same place and have the same kind of experiences.

Charlotte: I wish there were other females when I started, because the pressure that you get from some men is very unhealthy and can be damaging in many ways. To be relying on a female figure that’s older and has more experience in these matters is very important. I was very happy to provide that for Olivia.  

I also took my mentorship into areas beyond music, talking about politics, about equality, and issues in the industry that’s very important to consider as an artist today. It’s important to address these issues, because as an artist today, if you’re not being political then what are you?

It seems that today an artist can’t separate their music from their politics, whether you want to or not. But one thing that you touched on there, is the female perspective. You described your relationship as symbiotic, and from my experiences with men in music, it tends to be very one-directional, with an older generation very much still dominating the conversation about music. 

Charlotte: I’ve experienced that too. I thought this was very important as a mentor to say; “This is my advice to you from my perspective, but there are people that have a completely different  set of experiences and skills, so I would advise you to shop around and make up your own mind on what fits with you and your output.” I wouldn’t say that it is exclusively a female approach, but I would say I’ve experienced it more with other women than men. 

We’re underground artists working on the border of art and music, and there isn’t going to be some recipe for success. You should break the rules, you should be rebellious, you should question the structures or the methods of your forebears.

So if I could try and sum up your relationship, as mentor and mentee…

Charlotte: Good luck (laughs)

It’s not like you are exactly taking Olivia under your wing, but more like you’re helping her in nurturing her own voice in music?

Charlotte: That’s my aim. There are practical things that you can do, and we’ve done workshops on that. The main thing about being a mentor is teaching people to trust themselves. 

Olivia: I want to elaborate on that. After my first back to back with Charlotte, I had another gig the following Wednesday at Circa. I remember you (Charlotte) told me that the Wednesdays at Circa were loungy and it wasn’t a big rave atmosphere, and you challenged me to not mix  half of my set. Up until that moment I had been teaching myself how to mix perfectly, because that’s what I thought you had to do. I started to think about how you put two tracks together without mixing it, which opened up the idea, that it’s not terrible, if you make a mistake or not mix a track into another. It allowed for more creativity and gave me more confidence as a DJ, I stopped taking myself too seriously and began loving those small human flaws you sometimes hear in a set. For me that means you’ve challenged yourself and had fun with it.

Charlotte: I’ve said that to a lot of fresh DJs. I would rather listen to a DJ who can’t mix and plays good music, than listen to a DJ that plays boring music and can mix. 

You mentioned that you had similar tastes in music. Is there a point where your tastes diverged from each other?

Olivia: Not diverged. We’ve had similar tastes, but we won’t have identical sets. 

Charlotte: I have the same with a friend of mine, Miruna Boruzescu (Borusiade). We talk a lot and we’re very in tune with ideas, life, friendship and music. Our DJ sets are quite different, and for our back to backs we try to find out where to meet somewhere in the middle.

Olivia: I also remember playing alone and I played a track that Charlotte has in one of her mixes, and like two people came up to me, and asked if this isn’t Charlotte’s track. It was Ana Helder, but they were convinced it belonged to Charlotte because she played it regularly. I noticed then that people will naturally compare me to her and I don’t find it insulting in any way, but I feel that’s like asking, ”can I not play anything Charlotte might play?” 

Charlotte: That’s such a toxic idea and I’m so against that comparison. Just because we’re two women from Tromsø working in music in the last 40 years of Tromsø electronic music history, that we have to be compared, and Olivia can’t play a track that I had used in a mix?

Olivia: I just chose to own it in the end. I’m going to play it and I’m going to play it my way, and they just have to deal with that. 

I’ve noticed, not only in Tromsø, but Norway, there always seems to be a healthy exchange, not only between generations, but different groups of people working in music. More here than anywhere else, it seems that the scene isn’t as focused on a youth culture as it is perhaps in bigger countries, but more around an established old guard. 

Charlotte: What is the old guard, and what do you say about an upcommer of 42? What is experience and what do you do with it, and what is success and how do you measure success? All these questions are so open, that it doesn’t fit in the world of music and arts for me. 

This idea of passing the torch doesn’t work for me. Yes, there is a nine years difference (in age)  between me and Olivia and I’ve lived longer than her and I’ve had a longer career, but I don’t think there’s been a generational gap. (Tromsø) is such a small town, it’s just a scene with people, with various people with different sets of skills and experiences.  

It’s my experience from places like London and Amsterdam that it’s a very competitive scene and what usually attracts people and especially the media to it, is youth and the fact that it’s something new. I’ve not experienced it in that same way here in Norway. 

Charlotte: In Germany as well. You have this idea passed down through generations of how society, age and human life should be, but I think we should start realising, that that’s about to become outdated; these ideas of generations and age and experience. 

Olivia: There’s also been this misconception that you have to try to make a living out of it, for it to be your true passion. I want to take my time and I still want to figure out what I want to do with my life and I don’t think that question will ever be answered. I love music and I love DJ-ing, but I also want to do it on my terms. 

I remember you telling something similar the last time we interviewed you. You were talking about production, and how you’re refraining from till you could do it on your terms. Is there a pressure to produce too now?

Olivia: A lot of people have told me I have to start producing and I take that as a huge compliment, but I don’t want to produce something just for the sake of it. Someone else’s capacity will differ from mine, I have a lot of stuff going on and I will do things according to my own ability. 

Me and Charlotte have had workshops and I am constantly recording interesting sounds and I write down ideas, but I’m also acknowledging that music production is a long process, I’m aware that I’ll have to go through some failed projects before something is ready to be released. And I’m patient!

It’s the same with social media. When I made my Facebook page I was so stressed out, because I’m a private person and I don’t really do social media. I didn’t expect that cliché about social media being toxic would apply to my situation, but I got so anxiety ridden because I felt that I didn’t do enough whenever I saw someone else post something interesting, even though I got a lot of gigs and people were constantly inviting me to do stuff. I even started getting invited to Russia and Sweden, gaining ground internationally. 

There’s been so much focus on posting on your progress, especially for a newcomer. I think it’s easy to become stressed out or insecure sometimes. I also have to keep reminding myself that my social media content is not a measurement of my success. 

Charlotte: I also have something to add on this note; compulsive production is like smoking cigarettes in the sixties, addiction is sold as freedom. The more you produce, the more you release, I realise as a music lover, a DJ and music producer, that there is so much that each track loses value. 

It feeds into this universal idea of producing content and in a way music has just become another form of content to feed the social media monster. Are you gonna be producing music for the sake of producing music so Spotify can make more money? 

Charlotte: It doesn’t make sense.

Olivia: When I moved to Oslo, I didn’t have a job, so I was trying to make ends meet by just taking on a lot of gigs. There would be places where they would tell me what kind of music they wanted before I even got there, obviously not knowing my style at all. I felt that I needed to get myself out there and to feed my facebook and instagram feed, but really it didn’t make me more inspired and it didn’t make me feel more successful. It was tiring. When I got a job, I just had to listen to Enya for two weeks because I was so tired of electronic music. 

Are these ideas and thoughts on your own career something you were considering before covid?

Olivia: Yes, because I put a lot of pressure on myself and a facebook notification would pop every day, telling me to “keep posting.” I felt that I was rushing something, and I wasn’t sure where I was rushing to.

Charlotte, have you had any similar experiences to Olivia’s?

Charlotte: It also comes from people that I work with, who are constantly telling me to post more and do more. I felt that pressure, and what I’ve landed on is; “ok I’ll put out some stuff so I can stay in people’s feeds,” but it’s also better to work with an organisation that has their own PR strategy. Like working with a label or a podcast. 

Every time I feel this pressure though, I end up posting memes, because I can’t take this shit seriously. (laughs)

I want to ask about the lockdown… 

Charlotte: You mean Mental overdrive’s new track. 

That was a really surprising EP, but no,  in terms of the pandemic; how has the situation affected you?

Olivia: It’s just been a natural hiatus. I’ve been trying to generally keep my sanity and stay busy and stay inspired. Just listening to sets and staying updated on new releases so when everything goes back to (a new) normal again, I wouldn’t be too big a step for me to get back into the mindset of wanting to play.

Charlotte, you were making a living from DJing and music at the point we reached full lockdown, and not anything in terms of high profile travelling DJ, but surely that has had a serious impact.

Charlotte: I lost everything. I’m supposed to be in Tokyo now. I have my calendar reminding me of all these bookings, which is sad. I’m struggling financially, but being an underground musician, I’m used to being broke… so I’m managing.

Both of you have played through during summer, but your experiences from the booth must have been quite different, since in Oslo, where Olivia’s stayed, there’s been almost no dancing, while in Tromsø, I believe the regulations weren’t as strict. 

Olivia:  In the beginning I thought it would be more of a lounge setting and then somebody would come up to me, saying we really just want to listen to really good club music. I’ve gotten used to it and it feels good to be able to play a high energy set and see people enjoying it, even though they can’t get crazy on the dance floor. 

Charlotte: Music is such a physical experience. 

You can’t replicate that on a set of headphones. 

Olivia: Yes it’s something different, when you’re feeling the bass shaking you to your core. It’s not just about physically feeling the bassline, but also kind of how you move your body to the music.

Charlotte: What I’ve been doing is that I’ve started going to classes at the gym, where they do different muscle workouts to music and beats. To be in a room and listen to loud bass music and jump around and be sweaty around people is amazing, even though the taste of music at the gyms is not what I like to listen to. 

Olivia: I also want to add that for a lot of people, just being part of  a music scene is important. It’s about being social, and meeting new people that have the same interests as you.

Charlotte: It’s a shared experience.

Olivia: And that’s also why it’s so nice to see people together, because they need to socialise together.

For a lot of people growing up with this music, me included it’s deeply ingrained in our cultural fabric. 

Olivia: I actually know someone, who was sitting in the front courtyard while I was playing at Jaeger, and around 12 O’clock he texted me on Instagram and he told me had moved here and discovered the scene in Oslo, just before the first lockdown. It was just so important for him to go out. He was telling me how important the scene was for him to find his own friends. It’s a great way of meeting new people, and for some it’s the only way. 

I think that little story perfectly sums up what club culture and music is to us all. Let’s hope then it will survive the pandemic in whatever form it might take after. 

 

15 years of Full Pupp with Prins Thomas

This feels like hallowed ground. The small inconspicuous room is walled with records. Gathering dust in one corner is a drum kit and a cello while a cluttered desk occupies the other side of the room. This is more like a storage unit than a music studio, but it’s here on the third floor of a pedestrian office building where it all started, a record label called Full Pupp.

Across the hallway, Lindstrøm has a studio and a few doors down Todd Terje used to occupy a room, and if these unassuming walls could talk, they’d narrate fifteen years of a story of a label, that brought the sound of Norwegian House music to the rest of the world, and continues to provide a platform for new Norwegian artists working in the electronic music dialect. 

It’s here where I find Thomas Hermansen, the self-appointed Prins of this musical empire, sifting through some older records. He’s asked me to meet him here, even though he spends most of his time in his second studio. Moving his operations to the suburbs, closer to home a few years back, he uses the old studio as storage for a record collection that has spilled over into three different locations. 

Some of the records he peruses I hear later that week in his set Jaeger, during a new residency he’s cultivated over the course of the pandemic. Like the rest of the world, he’s taken the opportunity to take stock and adapt to the situation. “I’m living in the now and actually embracing that once a month opportunity to put music together” he exclaims with a beaming smile. 

He’s seized the opportunity to play some music from the fringes of this expansive record collection for a new monthly night at Jaeger, he’s aptly called Serenity Now! “Everything is set on pause a little,” he considered, “so it’s more a time for reflection, a time talking with other people and to be social.” For Thomas, the DJ it’s getting back to the start of a long career in the booth, where he cut his teeth in the local bars and hangouts of Oslo during the nineties. 

“The stuff I do now at Jaeger is based on stuff I’ve done before,” he explains. “This goes back 25 years ago, where I would play in a social setting for people that are there to do other things but to dance. I really enjoy doing things that are in the cross-section of these two things, when you can get people to dance to low energy stuff, and even do little peaks where you do play some bangers.”

The night has him content with the current situation and “besides the financial thing and the fact that I miss playing Sundays at Panorama bar, I’m actually quite happy as things are.”

A small pile of records starts to gather at his feet while he’s reminiscing in some automatic selection that suggests he knows each record intimately; records that look as if they haven’t seen anything but cobwebs in a few years. The topic of the pandemic, much like the pandemic itself, lingers as we consider the eventual repercussions and the relevance of releasing and playing club music during this time. 

Thomas even has his doubts about Full Pupp and the 15 year celebrations that started earlier this year with a lot of new releases featuring new or unreleased music from the unwavering stable of artists on the Full Pupp catalogue. “I wish we didn’t,” says Thomas more in humour than regret; “I wish we celebrated 16 years next year,” but what had been set in motion before the pandemic couldn’t easily be undone. 2020 had been a bumper year of releases for the label and Prins Thomas, whose own records included an album on Running Back (Træns) and a new album that saw Thomas reuniting with Lindstrøm for the long-awaited follow up to II, 11 years on from their last record. 

It’s picking up a thread from the early 2000’s when Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas introduced a distinctly Nordic interpretation of House to the world. People called it Space Disco; sowing the seeds for a label called Tamburin, which eventually becomes Full Pupp; bringing music from  Todd Terje, Diskjokke, Skatebård and Telephones to the world stage; shooting into new branches with names like Prins Thomas Music and Horisontal Mambo; and now in its fifteen year, gathering more steam with a new digital imprint (Full Pupp Ekspress) and a lot more music planned for the foreseeable future.

It all started here, in this stuffy little room where we slip into conversation with Prins Thomas. 

Congratulations. 15 years is a long time for a label. 

It feels like thirty. (laughs) At the same time, I don’t feel like the music has evolved much during that time. In a way time is irrelevant. 

Do you feel that’s a positive thing?

That’s the nature of this kind of music. Contemporary dance music always picks up something along the way, but it somehow keeps going in circles. You always go back to the seventies, eighties and nineties to pick up inspiration, adding something new to the formula. And that’s fine; for the most part it’s music to get down to. 

So does it still feel like a celebration at fifteen or is it just another year for you at this point?

This is one of the things I’ve been thinking about; opening up to new ideas. Being inspired by working in a different manner. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a yearly round-up of stuff. There’s also the possibility of tracks doing well, to combine them on vinyl. So maybe now we’ll celebrate  every year. 

Full Pupp, although it’s been claimed by Space Disco, has had Techno, House and Electro records on there. Do you feel it has been able to shake the stigma of Space Disco today and live beyond such constricting parameters?

As inspiration it’s always going to be there, but not necessarily more than House music in general. The canon of hits or the things that everybody likes; the Detroit origins or the New York origins, all these things are part of it. The Disco thing is there maybe more as an approach to making music, where I think a lot of the artists on Full Pupp are good at producing more loose, not so genre-strict music.

Would you say that’s the sonic philosophy behind Full Pupp; this fusion of all these styles in contemporary dance music? 

I don’t know if I actually have a philosophy or strategy at all. It’s never about the last record, it’s about all the records compiled together, whether it’s my label’s body of work or my own body of work. It’s probably the most frustrating thing about having a label, when you get that question; “what is it(?)”…  I tend to say… “Just listen.” (laughs) 

I understand there is a romantic idea behind it, because now there’s all this music coming and you need these genres and tags to help people find this music. I’m still thinking with my old brain, when there weren’t enough records in a genre to keep things interesting. 

You’re talking about the early nineties?

Even in the mid eighties when I was getting into this, I was buying regular pop records with dub versions on the B-side. Even the shitty stuff. You would have Whitney Houston’s I wanna dance with somebody, the dub version and you would play it next to Beastie Boys.

Now it’s relatively easy to get lost in a wormhole. You could listen to one specific type of techno with the same mood on every record, making the job easier for you as a DJ, but generally it’s boring for anybody else. 

What was the pretext for starting the label all those years ago?

I had friends of mine making great records, and I felt it was stupid for everybody to send their demos abroad, and give their stuff to  English labels. At the time, there weren’t any Norwegian labels making House music, everybody was sending their stuff to English labels and everybody believed that was the only way to do it. I’m not saying it was the first electronic music label; there were others, but not doing the kind of music we were doing.

This would have been around 2004-5 and the start of MP3s and what would become the digital revolution in this music. Was there any sense trepidation releasing records in the physical format during that time?

Well the funny thing is, two of our first records, Todd Terje’s first two records and my debut 12”, they sold quite well in the beginning. We even had a long period where we didn’t sell digitally. 

That’s changed now with Full Pupp ekspress. It’s uncanny, but in a way we’re finding ourselves in a similar situation today after what was a little peak for vinyl’s resurgence for a few years. What’s the difference from that era too now for you to start the digital imprint?

The easiest comparison; in the beginning we would sell 2000 copies of a completely unknown artist on Full Pupp. Now we’re selling 300 copies of my records on Full Pupp. We’re very close to the point where just barely breaking even is a positive thing. 

I have to say, for me it was a bummer even thinking about going digital. I’ve said many times that if I have to release stuff just digitally, it’s not a label anymore and I’m quitting. But starting on the process of planning the first releases, it felt really fresh to not work with constrictions of 12”, maximum 12 minutes. 

It’s opened up a new way of thinking; putting the format aside.We’re still planning releases for  Full Pupp on vinyl, so it’s not like we’re done with vinyl. Opening this door, is opening new possibilities.

What changed in your thought process to even consider the digital format?

Less frustration of having to wait out the period of releasing a record. In the beginning it was about getting the music finished and tidy enough to fit on a record.  By the time the record is out your sick and tired of it and your excitement is elsewhere. 

Having a quicker process from when the music is done to when it comes out. I don’t have to be as aware; are we going to get this funded by selling enough records. 

So it comes down to the economy of the label? You wouldn’t be able to justify going on exclusively in the physical format, eventually you and word and sound would run out of money.

I’m not saying everything is not selling, I’m saying there’s far more records not selling enough. It takes too long to recoup the money from the sales. At some point you have to take into account that they have to destroy the records. 

 It’s a good testing ground to see what could sell on vinyl.

Yes. That is also part of the plan, that Full Pupp isn’t just a digital label, we still have the possibility of doing anything or everything on vinyl.

Do you think it will change your approach to A&R for Full Pupp?

I think it already did. There was stuff I was going to put out on vinyl that is now only digital, but it gives me more room to move. I can take chances on tracks that wouldn’t be one of the four on vinyl.

Which seems right in today’s landscape. You can’t expect to make any money releasing a physical record, even if you release it on your own label, it is just going to cost you money.

I think the safest bet is that if you really want to make some money,  is to make some music that people would want to pay for, and fund it yourself. 

Then you would need to play to the common denominator, surely?

Not exactly, but then it’s going to have to be something that more than fifty other people in the world wants. And I think there are too many people making music for fifty other people. I might do it myself, but at least I’ve cheated my way into having a further reach (laughs). So when I make a track that’s probably only meant for 100 other people, there’s maybe 2000 other people, listening to it. 

Does that have to do with your success as a DJ in reaching these people?

I think it’s a mixture, being a recording artist over time, and those first releases with Lindstrøm and having my name out there as a DJ and doing remixes. At different times it seems that it’s hard escaping my name no matter what kind of music you’re listening to.

Do you think Full Pupp could exist without Prins Thomas?

Of course, if somebody wants to buy it, I’d be happy to sell it. (laughs) An important fact about all this is; the only reason there is a Prins Thomas music label is because I was thinking of pulling the plug on Full Pupp. At the time I was really getting fed up with not living up to people’s expectations, when it came to sales and how slow things were going. Now I think it’s like this for everybody.

More importantly is that for the last year Ivaylo (Kolev) has been helping out running it so we can actually call it a record label, because for fourteen years it wasn’t… it was just an imprint. 

I’ve noticed, besides remixes, your own music is mainly coming out via these like International or the Prins Thomas music label. Have you distanced your own music further away from Full Pupp in recent years?

Setting up Prins Thomas music was definitely a way of getting my stuff out of the way, so I wouldn’t clog up the catalogue with my own releases. When I put a record out, it has a bit more spread and coverage, which means the label is probably working longer and harder with it. Those are the times when we can hire external PR and stuff like this, because there will be some revenue. It only took two people to point the finger, saying “when is my record coming out, now that your record is out.” 

But for the last year, I’ve been a lot more involved with the label, and trying to keep up with Ivaylo’s schedule. Because now we actually have a schedule. Getting more involved means that I see more things that need to be done, so I’m much more part of the process. 

As far as I know, you have always had a very hands on approach to the artists on the label, from the point of creation. Is that an integral part of the approach to the label?

It’s a bunch of different approaches, in terms of what the artist wants and what I want to hear. How I perceive what I’ve been sent. If I feel that the message is not coming across in the way the artist solved it, I have to give my own take on it, either by helping out mixing down, arranging or speaking to the person. But sometimes I stay away if I feel there’s something that has a strong identity already, I don’t want to interfere with that.

But that in itself  is something of the sonic identity that courses through Full Pupp?

Yes, but that’s just down to my taste. And it’s already been filtered, not everybody sends me music. I do get a lot of music, that I don’t see a part of any of the labels that I do. And there’s things that don’t live up to expectations.; since starting the label, I’ve always wanted to put out a great rock record,  but nobody has sent me a great rock record.

Have you received any rock records?

Yes, there have been some. But not anything that I think works as a record.

But you’ve started some other labels, that you accommodate things that don’t always fit the Full Pupp sound.

Yeah but there are enough labels now. (laughs)

Where do you see it all five years from now?

I have no idea whether I’ll be doing the label in another five years, I probably will, because I’m a slow quitter… who knows…

The cut with Filter Musikk: “kortreist” to sanctuary

Dance floors stand empty; a silent void crushing the ghostly reverberations of a time when they were packed with licentious bodies moving to a provocative beat. Sound systems remain dormant, dust and rust coagulating around moving parts in rictus, where once upon a time their motions could ignite fires on the dance floor. 

Anything resembling a scene is in hibernation and accurately so. Yet every day we’re bombarded by a caterwaul of emails, social media posts and articles proclaiming the next “big room techno banger” about to arrive on the next big techno banger label, spearheaded by the last big room techno banger DJ, desperately trying stay relevant in a scene that has taken to the woods, where their services are no longer required. 

They breathe the air of other planets, their perception of reality emulsifying around the last great night, the last big room, the last DJ set, trapped in limbo like a wary Jack Nicholson trying to force a door open with an axe… yes, subtle. These uncharted territories in charted dance music where adaptation thrives and reluctance to modulate is the death knell in the form of a 909 kick. It’s time to wake up from the lysergic dream of an impossible past, and it’s in situations like these that a new music will thrive. It’s music that is in direct contact with a localised audience, a music in the form of a conversation rather than a monologue. 

Music does not live in a bubble of isolation, it lives and grows within the zeitgeist of society, and in a world where the “big room” is closed; the dance floor is cluttered with tables and chairs; the international superstar DJ is landlocked and homebound; and the festival season is postponed, perhaps now is not the time for your “big room Techno banger.” You’ll have your chance again… but we need something different now; something a little more sympathetic with the situation.

Luckily this music exists too, and it’s happening right on our doorstep. It’s a short trip to liberation, a brief jaunt toward complete immersion of a unique and distinct music culture, with everything from Trance to House finding a new purpose in more uplifting spirits. This is music that soothes and condoles in unprecedented times, the stuff we recognise from the people we know. This is the cut with Filter Musikk on a “kortreist” to sanctuary. 

 

Mikkel Rev – UTE004 (UTE.REC) 12”

Uteklubb have been busy. While they wait patiently for the pandemic to ease and get back to hosting events, the people behind the DJ collective have focussed all their efforts on the label and their music, and 2020 has been a bumper year of releases for the artists behind the label. Settling into a transcendental sonic disposition, Uteklubb have moved out from the dark recesses of Techno into the enlightened sound of Trance, IDM and Ambient music. They’ve established a new label Sinensis with Omformer consolidating those efforts around two releases while the flagship label, re-focussed their purpose on the boisterous tempos of the impromptu forest dance floor with the Groundcontrol compilation and now the latest 12” from UTE.REC founder Mikkel Rev.

Disappearing into fluffy clouds of rich dynamic textures, Rev’s melodies rise above the steadfast rhythm sections that follow the grid in a near-military precision. Pads and keys free the beat from its marching orders as they streak across the tracks in search of some human empathy in lieu of a dance floor. 

Throughout the two-sides, Rev seeks some organic entity within the formulas of dance music, and takes the music out of the stuffy confines of a club into the fresh air, where we’ll dance el-fresco as the uppermost resonances touch the top of fir trees. Between elements of acid, IDM and ambient, Mikkel Rev channels a sound into a style with its major touchstone anchored in classic Trance, revamped for the future audiences of this forgotten, but endearing dance music genre. 

 

VA – 15 Years Full Pupp Pt.3 (Full Pupp) 12″

15 years of Full Pupp. That should be enough. 15 years for any label is a feat worth aspiring to, but for Prins Thomas’ plucky Oslo-based outfit it had always seemed like an inevitability as the only outlet for Techno, House et al from Norway for nearly all this time. And in its fifteenth year, it’s only gone to prove itself as a dominating force in dance club music in Norway and beyond. 

Releasing more music than ever in 2020 – and we don’t think the pandemic has anything to do with it – Full Pupp is putting out enough music the world over, all based on a small enclave of artists working from within Prins Thomas immediate artistic circle, based mostly in Norway. For the last 15 years, Full Pupp has been the measure to gauge the waters of Norwegian club music, and while it would still bear association with the Space Disco epithet for most, its discography reaches far and wide into everything from Disco to Techno, and that’s not considering all the sublabels. 

In the landmark year for the label, Prins Thomas is celebrating the occasion with a series of compilation EPs from the artists that have contributed to the label over the years in a concerted effort from Prins Thomas to wrangle the eclectic sounds of the diverse record label into a concise sonic history. Part three in the series features another star-studded guest list with contributions from Skatebård, Iben Elaster, Magnus International and the second ever release of Wildflowers, the new collaborative project between Kaman Leung and Øyvind Morken. 

Between the warbling acid of Prins Thomas’ treatment of Sitronsyre, to the cosmishe wizardry of Wildflower’s Magic Johnson, it’s a record that covers the vast expanse of Norway and Oslo’s club dialect and music history. It retains that intrinsic Full Pupp identity, which has even gone some way to define an artist like Skatebård’s music. The crisp sounds and the cold atmospheres creeping in between effervescent melodic excursions and lattice-like percussive arrangements, is indicative of the Full Pupp charm that has travelled from Norway to the furthest reaches of Japan and is enshrined in the expanding Full Pupp catalogue. Here’s to another fifteen years, Full Pupp.  

 

Omformer – Ascending /Distance (HMD Records) 12”

I can’t think of a place anybody would rather be than hjemme med dama at the moment. The Oslo-based label and community celebrates five years years as a mix concept born out of the bedroom that has matured into an event series, a label and a festival, only to return to the bedroom in 2020, where it’s found some striking sympathy with the world around it in their latest.

Omformer bring their unique take on Trance and Ambient to HMD. Two extensive cuts, float between beat music and ambient texture across Ascending and Descending, as we go from the main floor to the second room of a nineties Rave across the release. An obscure narrative follows the record over two sides, as that swinging rope bridge from the dance floor to the living room. As Ascending’s lively intro drifts away into pirouetting acid figures and eventually drop into the languid mood of Distance, it marks the serene anti-climax of a night out, captured in sound.

It’s the ultimate come-down record for what’s proven to be the ultimate come-down situation, even though it was made way before the pandemic. But going from those ecstatic highs of the first half to the sluggish relief of the second half of the record, and even in the slow recesses of the Distance’s downtempo exaltations, Omformer find a chipper disposition as synthesisers leap across arrangement in buoyant movements. 

 

Fredfades & Jawn Rice – Remixes (Mutual Intentions) 10”

House music hasn’t sounded this cool in a long time. If Eddie Murphy’s leather suits and Tom Hardy’s sneer made music, this is what it would sound like.  Mutual Intentions have been unravelling the borders between Soul, House, Jazz, Hip Hop and Disco across their affiliates since establishing the concept, but it’s in the recent collaborative efforts of Jawn Rice and Fredfades where they’ve blurred these borders into a House music trope that engages as much as it entices.

After a stint in the hot tub as Jacuzzi Boys in 2018, the pair followed it up with Luv Neva Fades this year, a record that bathes in the same tropical warmth of its predecessor, but refining the sound with the help of a stellar cast of collaborators. Arriving around the same time, was a remix package of some released and unreleased material getting the treatment from the Jacuzzi Boyz themselves, Chmmr, Deep88 and Hugo LX.

From Chmmr re-assembling Show me How’s percussive arrangement to Hugo LX’s soulful excursions through Mutual Love’s horn sections, each artist imprints their own personality on these tracks, but it’s the hazy heat of Fredfades and Jawn Rice originals that remain at the center of the record’s appeal.  

Chmmr’s icy melodic treatments and Deep88’s vision for the dance floor on I believe, show a different side to these tracks, but it’s the dusty keys and muggy atmospheres of the originals that is the glue that holds these tracks together.  

 

Snorre Magnar Solberg – Arkhe Typos (On On Bulk)

Snorre Magnar Solberg communes with aliens on his latest; “A 1 hr journey into the realm of synthesizer shamanism, exploring ambi-trance, textural drone, uplifting acidic, cosmic cradle lullaby`s with added tribal machine rhythms.”

Solberg taps into the primordial ooze of emotion, converting introverted suggestions into movement and noise. Incandescent bleeps and squawks flicker from some subconscious diatribe in a cosmic language, reconstituted as sound and then music. Snorre Magnar Solberg dives deep into the recesses of an inanimate synthesiser on Arkhe Typos in a record that drifts between experimental improvisation and synthetic ambience.

Melodic refrains and harmonic passages with nowhere to go, float untethered, in a void across stark electronic soundscapes that feel more like ambient installation than anything from a dance music dialect. Touchstones from acid and trance coalesce around defiant formations progressing across the record like constellations, briefly revealing a hidden pattern, before dispersing into complete randomness.   

* The cut with Filter Musikk goes live at Jaeger this Wednesday with a Vinyl Messe and DJ sets from Roland Lifjell and Sverre Brand.

Keep it locked on Løkka: Introducing Løkka FM

Air Max ‘97s two stepping their way through the murky bass-spectrum’s of the UK underground as rolling rhythms undulate under growling voices,spreading the poetry of street.  This the  sound original pirate material, the sound of illicit airwaves being broadcast from rudimentary FM antennas hanging from a council estate building. It’s the sound of UK garage, two step, funky and what would become grime and dubstep in later years and it’s arrived in Oslo. This is the sound of Løkka FM.

The Oslo DJ collective and party set are bringing the sounds of UKG, two step and bass over to Norwegian shores with events, online radio shows, merchandise and now a label. Featuring a Norwegian-British ensemble of producers, DJs and music fanatics, Løkka FM have become the new ambassadors for a UK sound in Oslo and Norway. The 4-piece have consolidated their efforts around events like the regular takeover in Jaeger’s backyard and more recently, a label

Løkka FM 001 hit the shelves this summer, with Club Quarantine (indoors), a track that channeled their vibe in the booth to a record that hits it hard on the nose under our current situation and showcases the UKG’s ability to move from the dance floor to the airwaves across one track. It features two of the four Løkka FM affiliates with a guest appearance from Nora Pagu, but who are the rest of Løkka FM and how exactly did they arrive at their sound? We reached out to Marius Sommerfeldt, (aka DJ Bangerfeldt) to find out more about the emerging collective as we stream their last session from the sauna. 

I’ve heard Løkka FM being referred to as a DJ collective, radio show, event and maybe a label. What exactly is Løkka FM?

Løkka FM is a collective, a club night, a label, party central, an Instagram account, a Norwegian-British culture exchange programme, a neverending messenger-chat, a 2hr-mix production company, a T-Shirt manufacturer, a Premier League discussion forum and an ambulatory radio show. Amongst others. 

What were the origins of Løkka FM, and who is involved today?

Løkka FM consists of DJ Bangerfeldt, Toshybot, Goodzee and Andreas 565. Goodzee has been DJ’ing in the UK before moving to Norway, Andreas has been doing different UKG-concepts earlier on, at Revolver and Dattera amongst others, Marius and Toshy has been releasing music for DJ’ing for years… and we’ve all been blending UKG-bangers in our different housey sets, even playing together at different occasions. At the same time we saw a potential to have a bigger impact and cultivate the UK sound if we united in a bigger crew with more outlets. The UK scene has been quite small in Oslo, so it just seemed excessive to compete about the same crowd and the same bookings. In addition we wanted the nights to be fun and a bit more rugged, with Goodzee on the mic and some mix-and-blending throughout the night to make it stand out a bit more from the regular house nights we all have played over the years. And people really seem to catch on!

An honourable mention goes to our designer, Kristian Tennebø for delivering such amazing artwork and packaging for us !

You guys have quite varied backgrounds, but yet Løkka FM is grounded in the sound of House, two-step and garage. What brought you all to this particular sound?

We all have different reasons for loving it – old mix CD’s, MJ Cole, Wookie, UK pirate radio, Air Max 97’s, etc but the timing and the state of UKG is probably a big reason for us doing it now. There’s been a big revival of UKG and 2-step in the UK over the past 6-7 years, with a myriad of young, new producers and DJs fronting a new wave of UKG and UK House and none of us felt it impacted the clubs and parties we attended in Oslo. Whenever we went to London or Birmingham we experienced a young and vibrant scene, whereas in Norway – If UKG-tracks got a spin it tended to be the golden oldies and the usual, predictable stuff. When Løkka FM was formed it was important to recognize these new producers and the new sound as well, and not lean too much on the legacy of great, but also overplayed, UKG-anthems. The sound is therefore evolving with a blend of 4×4, 2-step, bass and vocal chops with a taste of speed garage and bassline when it’s called for! The perfect party-blend! 

What is your connection to the world of UKG, and why did you decide to bring it to Oslo?

I guess we all have our different connection and different favourite parts of the sound that make up Løkka FM. Goodzee being from the motherland obviously grew up with UKG and has spent a lifetime with the genre. Andreas 565 has been in Birmingham a lot and done club nights with Birmingham DJs in Oslo and played at their bassey nights. Toshy fell in love with UK garage on an Interrail trip back in 98 and has had a deep love for the genre ever since. 

Marius dips into the garage scene came mostly from reading mixmag about the new sound and listening to The Streets, Wookie, MJ Cole and rewinding Nice N´ Ripe bangers too many times, in the late nineties.

We’ve also been embraced by different DJs, radio stations and promoters in the UK from the get go – they seem to find it fascinating that we’re carrying the torch over here as well. We’ve even had legends like Matt Jam Lamont and Zed Bias over which was great fun, obviously! The main reason for doing it might just be that UKG is such a versatile form for club music that people seem to fall in love with, even though they don’t have a clue about Garage or UKG. Even though people don’t know they love it, they tend to after a UKG night regardless. After every party there’s someone approaching us saying “I have no idea what you guys were playing, but it’s great. Where can I find more?”. It kind of spurred us on to not only playing it, but also being more up front about the genre and branding it a bit more. 

The “FM” aspect is not something you can ignore, and it evokes something of that nineties/early 2000’s pirate radio spirit. What is the significance of the radio associations to Løkka FM?

When Goodzee is chatting trash on the mic over a bassey 2-step blend it’s hard not to think of pirate radio to be honest. One of the most engaging parts of UKG, and also one of the aspects that sets it apart from more traditional house music is the communication between the DJs and the MCs, and the MCs and the crowd. It has rarely happened in parties in Oslo before Løkka FM, but we love it and we want to emphasize it and develop it even more. When we’ve brought other MCs with us as well the response from the crowd has been great, especially when people get used to the dynamics. Besides, “FM” looks really cool on a shirt, don’t you think?

I don’t suppose you’ve rigged up an antenna on Markveien just yet, but is that something you will be adding to the Løkka FM franchise eventually?

We have been doing different monthly radio shows –  AAJA in Deptford, De3p Radio Network and others, but it would be fun to go back to the roots and do an actual FM-set, for sure! Do people still have their old FM-radios though? LØKKA DAB doesn’t sound as sexy, tbh. 

You’ve had a few successful nights at Jaeger recently. How do these takeovers consolidate what you’re doing with the rest of the concept?

Jaeger is a great place we’ve all been partying at and we’ve discussed on multiple occasions that the backyard would be a perfect spot for a proper UKG-party, so it was fun making it happen! For us it’s a great way of showcasing a house and garage blend for a crowd that knows club music and is used to the dynamics of a club set, while also throwing in 2-step and bassey tracks to keep it interesting. So far – so good! Hopefully we can grow even more and get some of our current favourites to join us, as soon as the UK lockdown is over as well! 

It’s certainly distinctive and there seems to be a shared, dedicated objective to Løkka FM with that accent on a UK sound. How have the Norwegian audiences taken to it from your perspective?

As we mentioned earlier – people really seem to catch on. From the get go we attracted a lot of british expats that were really into UKG and baffled that they finally found a club night in Oslo, but the more nights we do the more people tend to come back. We thought the scene was marginal in Oslo, but we might have underestimated UKG a bit – every night  there’s a couple of die hard 2-step fans we’ve never met before approaching us and after the set there’s always at least a couple of people left wanting to talk about what we’ve played. All in all it’s more than enough people buying in to keep us motivated to bring new tracks and new sets… now we’re just dreaming of a post-Covid dance floor going crazy to a shuffled hi-hat! 

I’ve heard mention of a label. When can we expect some music, and how much will it reflect what you’re doing in the booth?

Our label seemed like a nice extension to the community, and our first release is already out! Club Quarantine, which is a quirky 2-step banger about staying indoors (Covid-19 style) involves Marius & Tosh as Trudee Nite , Goodzee on the mic, the great Nora Pagu doing backing vocals and 565 finishing a pretty banging remix as we speak (coming soon) Andreas 565 has already been producing some banging UK Garage as 565 – they have a couple of releases on Smashing Trax Records and Pogo House Records as well as different remixes that is worth checking out.

Will the label also be a collective pursuit, or will you be looking to induct artists from outside Løkka FM?

Apart from the local crew, Trudee Nite and 565 doing tracks and remixes, we will be followed by some (hopefully) national and international friends of the UKG community in the future.

What else should we know about Løkka FM ahead of your next night at Jaeger?

Not much to say on this one, except: Keep it locked, keep it safe, keep it Løkka!

 

For more information visit:

Where there’s smoke there’s fire and that wasn’t a rave

Let’s just get one thing straight: whatever happened in St Hanshaugen last weekend, it wasn’t a rave. A bunch of entitled, straight, white people shouting over a tinny PA blasting out dance chart music, is little more than a russebuss to Berghain (if I can borrow a phrase from Olanskii). It’s a thinly veiled attempt at monopolising on an aspect of counter culture most of the people involved have never experienced first hand. You’ve read the stories, heard the rumours and saw the debate on television, and I just want to make sure that you know that whoever these people are, they don’t speak for rave- or club culture. These are nothing more than a bunch of kids with more money than sense, but the associations they’ve encouraged with rave culture and the international media incorrectly emphasising this association in a narrative of dangerous liaisons in a bunker in Oslo, could have disastrous ramifications for the last remnants of the original counter culture rave- and club scene. Especially in Norway and Oslo, where an authoritarian nanny state has always had a complicated and mostly dichotomous relationship with dance music culture and the community.

DIY parties and raves, in big part because of this relationship, has always had a presence in Norway. Accessible forests and remote suburban hamlets offer a chance to disappear and have led to some legendary party sets to flourish in Norway with experienced DJs and promoters hosting events that always make sure to fly under the radar, in order to not attract any attention to themselves or their guests. Intimate gatherings in largely open air venues with hosts taking every precaution to ensure the safety of their guests, have attracted less attention in all these years combined, than this one isolated event that shouldn’t even be considered in the same sport let alone the same ballpark. In recent years, events like VOID, Uteklubb and Technokjeller’n have come a long way in legitimising their efforts in Oslo by appearing in established venues like Jaeger and Villa and hosting official stages at the annual Oslo Musikkfest, a city wide event endorsed by local government. In fact to say that events like these are DIY is understatement, since more go into the planning and execution, than what usually goes into a similar event at a club. 

Unfortunately all the good work that these people have done, have just been eradicated, by this event in St Hanshaugen. Career politicians looking for a scapegoat through the blurry vision of political ideologies, and more often than not personal advancements, always fail to see the nuances, and will most certainly now only strengthen their resolve on all they perceive to be club culture. Almost immediately after, just this week in fact, they’ve maintained their position in closing venues before 12:00 when we saw encouraging signs that they would allow venues to stay open until 3AM. It’s just a bit ironic too, considering the fact that it was exactly this reason that these kids sought a cave to rave; the hubris of politics at work in the very denial of reality in every conceivable effort to always appear to be right. Limiting opening hours in a society so conditioned by drinking and socialising habits in the early mornings, in large part enforced by the state’s practises, have not changed these habits in Oslo at all, and in some aspects have only strengthened people’s resolve to maintain their routines. 

What do you expect? Human nature will always prevail, and in a situation like a pandemic, strengthened by the need to escape a grim reality , Oslo has responded, first with impromptu house parties and later with raves and club events happening around the edges of the city’s forest borders. When the house parties got too rowdy and the clubs started closing early again, there was only one option left and those that would usually spend their Fridays at Justisen and their Saturdays at Lawo, had nowhere left to go but underground. Appropriating a model from their more successful and more sincere counterparts, these kids sought refuge in a bunker, but got it disastrously wrong, by poisoning their guests and a couple of police officers with carbon monoxide, their experience woefully inadequate when compared to the real ravers, passing down knowledge from generation to generation. It says something too of the current situation that even a serious, established outfit like Uteklubb have resigned this year to a pandemic, and are only looking tentatively to the summer of 2021 to mark their return to the dance floor. 

People are still going to want to dance however, and during times of strive or uncertainty, that need for human contact, a social engagement, and some kind of release, only grows. Take the story of Tijana T, dancing in warehouses in Belgrade while bombs rained down over Belgrade. “It’s not only about social or economic circumstances, it’s also in our mentality.” she told this very blog, and while I’ve always been cautious about drawing a direct line of influence from the dance floor to politics, there is still some sense of rebellion in going out to a club and especially a rave, and there’s something mentally healthy about just stepping out of reality, even just for a night. Getting bogged down in the woes and existential crises of everyday life will have serious repercussions on anybody’s mental health, and any- and everybody will naturally seek to liberate their mind, even if it’s just for a moment in a leisurely pursuit of their choosing. We chose dancing.  

It leaves an irrecoverable mark however, when something like the event in St Hanshaugen happens, and in a case like that, where it’s completely unwarranted, having no relationship with anything that constitutes the established rave scene in Oslo, their ignorance in calling it rave and the international media on perpetuating that line can really ruin what some serious people and true enthusiasts have invested a lot of time in effort in. It’s important to me then, that you know that whatever happened in St Hanshaugen last weekend, that was no rave.  

 

* The words contained here within are the opinion of editor Mischa Mathys. The views here within don’t ncessarily reflect the views of Jaeger Oslo.

Premiere: Vinny Villbass – Liberty

Listen to a new track from Vinny Villbass taken from the upcoming 20 years of Trunkfunk compilation.

A chirpy synth sequence plays between a couple of marimbas running in counterpoint. Gated percussion, ripped from some elusive 80’s source is repurposed for a modern dance floor, stepping at a moderate tempo, enticing you over to a happy dance floor. Vinny Vilbass frees the feet on his latest, a punchy track called “Liberty” for the forthcoming 20 years of Trunkfunk compilation.

“If you listen very closely, you might recognize some drumsounds and a floaty synth from the Trunkfunk catalog,” says the chipper artist over email. “This actually started as a remix for a NIBC track, but it soon got stripped down to its own self, hence the name, Liberty!” It’s the first of twenty tracks which will feature alongside Voiski, Art Alfie and of course DJ Nibc.

Vinny Villbass has had a long standing relationship with Nibc and Trunkfunk after meeting in Berlin in 2009. “We started throwing big parties together under the name of KonTiki,” says Vinny, who remembers some “crazy lineups ” with Mano Le Tough, BrandtBrauerFrick, Olof Drejer, ToddTerje, and Axel Boman. After making some “great memories” as a club night, Vinny found himself on the Trunkfunk roster and contributed to the label with notable releases like his 2015 EP “Zip Zap.”

“Liberty” finds Vinny in a playful mood with that wonderful marimba floating on and off the beats as it makes it’s way through the peppy track. Although Vinny insists, he’s “not aiming for a Terry Riley minimalistic loop expression here” we can’t help but draw comparisons as he finds some organic pretence in the stark abyss of electronic music. “Guess I’m one of those souls that rather dance in the forrest than in a warehouse… ” he muses.

It’s the first track to come out of his newly built, yet largely empty studio, and which he describes as an “art by accident situation.” Creating it with little more than a computer and a soundcard, Vinny sat down at his makeshift controls “and booom, 3 hours later it was pretty much done.”  It had to put on the bacckburner once the pandemic hit but now it’s finally here today, and just in time for the next edition of badabing.

20 years of Trunkfunk Part 1 is out now on vinyl with the digital release arriving on the 28th of August on Traxsource and the 4th of September everywhere else.

Introducing Sous-Vide Records

Grooves entrenched in the deep recesses of dance floor archetypes; sonic landscapes thriving in the stark progressions of minimalism; and visceral arrangements touching on some deep emotive charge, this is the sound of Sous-Vide, the newest addition to the Norwegian clubbing landscape. The club concept and label with mighty aspirations in club culture, from festivals to community outreach efforts was launched last month with an event at Jaeger featuring Thomas Skjærstad, Dolbah, Pål Thomas and Matiago. 

At the centre of this new concept is Thomas Skjærstad, a DJ and producer that is no stranger to Jaeger’s booth, making waves across Norway and  Europe with his singular sound as a DJ. It’s a sound that he and Dolbah have developed in the concept of Sous-Vide and which will soon make its mark on the recorded format with the first release scheduled for this month. With tendrils stretching from Norway to Europe and South-East Asia, Sous-Vide is Norwegian based label, with international appeal, catching the ear of Mixmag amongst others ahead of its first release. 

It comes as a silver lining on a dark cloud currently casting long shadows over club- and DJ culture’s future. At a time when there’s great uncertainty over the sustainability of club culture in the age of the pandemic, there’s some hope in the continued creative efforts of a new concept like Sous-Vide. How will this situation affect the label, and why use this time to start a new label? These were some of the questions on our mind, when we heard Sous-Vide were returning to Jaeger this month so we reached out to Thomas Skjærstad to ask for a formal introduction ahead of tomorrow’s event with an exclusive stream of their last session at Jaeger. 

Hello Thomas and co. Perhaps we can start with introductions. What is Sous-Vide and who are the key players behind the label? 

Hello Jaeger! Sous-Vide Records is a small Norwegian vinyl & self releasing record label focused on the grooves of minimalism. I started this idea 3 years ago, but never got further than the planning phase because I didn’t have the right people to move forward with. The idea has been laying dormant for a while, but the spark came back about a year ago when I teamed up with Knut Kvien (Dolbah). After giving an elevator pitch of my idea during a car ride up to my studio, Knut was basically all in right from the start. We quickly realized that we share the same philosophy when it came to music and sound. 

From this point on I started developing the business plans, SWOT analysis, presentations, website prototypes and vinyl design mockups. Meanwhile, Knut was locked up in the studio producing track ideas like a madman and finding the right partner for vinyl pressing and distribution. 

After we had the plan down on paper it became clear to me that we had to bring in more resources in order to reach our goals. An important part of the launch process involves creating a series of events both in open-air and club settings, and perhaps even a small festival further down the road. This is when I brought in a passionate minimal soul and a good friend of mine from Molde: Pål Thomas. I met him through playing at a festival he organized, Hjertøya, so he was a natural choice with his experience from event infrastructure and organizing. 

I have a background as digital product developer and art director, so you could say I have a clear vision of how I want to build the SVR aesthetic. For me to be able to focus on managing the label and visual profile, I knew that I needed to bring in another resource to handle everyday tasks and social media. Hello, Mathias! Even though we’ve only known each other for about a year and a half we have already worked together on many different projects and organized several sold-out events in Oslo. Mathias has been an essential person for me to be able to get the heavy lifting done and he didn’t hesitate for a second to jump in with this project either. 

Today our little imprint consists of 4 hard-working and passionate souls who share the same vision. We are working continuously on building a sustainable platform piece by piece, connecting with good people along the way while sharing our story with the world. 

You take your name from a French cooking tradition. How does that tie into music for you and why choose that as the name of your label? 

Great question! There’s actually a lot of thought behind the name and its connection to music. Sous-Vide was innovated back in the 18th century which kind of revolutionized the world of cooking. It dramatically increased the control over temperature and pressure by vacuum sealing the food, allowing for higher precision than had ever been possible before. This enabled uncompromising chefs to consistently deliver the same, delicious taste with every single dish. For this reason it appeals to those who truly love their craft – and this aligns perfectly with my philosophy when it comes to music and the imprint. 

Where do your inspirations lie, both musical and beyond for Sous-Vide? 

About a year ago I felt quite conflicted when it came to my music, kind of dragged between different directions not having a clue of which path to take on. After releasing the Grønland EP with Granbar which made it to 1st place in Beatport releases, I felt like I had to keep producing Progressive House and Techno tracks. The crazy thing about it all is that I didn’t really feel like home in the genre and at some point after playing Techno every gig for about 3 years I started to feel a bit stressed and unbalanced on the inside. 

In January this year my girlfriend and I decided to visit Epizode festival in Vietnam, and that turned out to be the tipping point for me. Being down there on the festival grounds made me feel something I had been missing for a while both musically and personally; a sense of peace and balance, family, and unity. When talking about inspiration don’t even get me started on the music some of these guys were playing… Like seeing Aesel Weiss and Tal Cohen all the way from The Block Club in Tel Aviv seducing the crowd at 9AM at the Egg Stage – that set was like musical education to me. Absolutely mind blowing and I just had to make Asael part of our SVR family.When music becomes more sophisticated and with unexpected elements, it requires more focus from the listener to fully understand and enjoy the music to its fullest potential. To me this translates into an interesting listening experience that can go on and on without becoming boring. 

Much of my driveforce and inspiration also lies in connecting like minded humble souls in a small, tight-knit family where we can create a space for sharing ideas, knowledge and inspiration between us. 

You launched the label at Jaeger last month with the debut release still in the works. What encouraged you to start the label and what should we expect from that first release, when it does arrive? 

The soft launch at Jaeger last month was important to us as it gave us a chance to present our sonic image and some of our upcoming releases. It was a great night that we enjoyed with support from good friends in the scene. We’ve been keeping busy since then, so the whole release schedule for 2020 and through Q2 2021 is actually complete already. Exciting times! 

Basically, the Sous-Vide Records catalogue will consist of two branches in the future; SVR and SVRSR where SVR contains the physical format and vinyl releases, and SVRSR will be our digital self-releasing branch. Our first release is a beautiful 4 track EP by the talented artist Mica (UK) who’s currently stationed in Manila in the Philippines. We feel that Mica really fits well with our vision for the first release as it both challenges our sound and the listener in several ways. You can expect elements of break beats and fresh house cuts with a dash of surprise baked into lush and harmonic soundscapes. The EP will be available on our Bandcamp page this month. This first release will be followed up by the prominent Thailand-based producer DOTT who is currently establishing a physical record store in the heart of Bangkok City. 

Now, our first vinyl release is going to be something special. This 4-track EP is a real masterpiece by the Israel based producer Asael Weiss containing 3 solo tracks and a remix from the Romanian wizard RQZ. Over the past 5 years, Asael has been holding the badge as resident for The Block Club in Tel Aviv, which is counted as a musical institution that is delivering some of the best sound in the world. The vinyl will arrive in October or November and will be an important milestone for us as we put a lot of money, time and effort into making this happen. Our goal is that each individual vinyl will represent a story and to be looked upon as a timeless piece of art both visually and musically. 

Further on we have a 3 track vinyl from Marwan Sabb known from Dubfire ́s label SciTech which over the past years made appearances at events such as Time Warp and Cercle. Marwan will be accompanied by a remix from our own lads Thomas & Dolbah. Following up in high tempo, RQZ will deliver his own solo record and as for the 4th release Thomas & Dolbah will deliver 3 tracks + a remixer that is secret for now. 

Is there a sonic philosophy to Sous Vide and how will it inform the artists and the music on the label? 

There absolutely is a clear sonic philosophy behind the music we are curating and creating. To me it’s important to maintain a clear and consistent musical identity but at the same time a label should have some color to it as well. To translate our sonic signature to releasing artists is key to avoiding mistakes and ending up with tracks that are not suitable for the label in the end. A situation like that would be challenging and frustrating both for the artist and label. 

The coming six months will help us set the foundation for our sonic identity where each artist and release will represent its own outer point on the sonic spectrum. The ultimate goal would be that people would start recognizing unreleased tracks and say “Oh this must be an SVR release” ;) 

It’s a very precarious time to be launching a label, as clubs are still not able to operate under normal conditions and fewer DJ gigs. So why launch a label of this nature now, and how do you think the situation will affect the nature of the label going forward? 

For us the current situation has actually been a positive driving force in establishing our imprint. Once upon a time a wise man told me It’s in times of turmoil that people with a fine idea make it good. To be frank we have been given more time to evaluate and consider everything from strategy, marketing and promo down to searching for the artists and talents we believe will contribute to shaping the future of SVR. 

Building on this, the lockdown situation has pushed large parts of our audience into a position of listening rather than one of partying. For us, this is actually ok as our music is best enjoyed with a degree of focus and attention to detail. Now that many clubs are open but with dancing restrictions, we feel our sonic image suits well with peacefully moving hips enjoying a cold brew in Jaeger’s back yard. 

Your next event at Jaeger will be your third in a month and all this before the first record. What is the significance of the club concept alongside the label? 

Well, there’s a couple of aspects to it actually. We want to help undiscovered minimal artists in Norway to grow and find their footing, while also showcasing our in-house productions and upcoming releases. The order of things is intentional – we’re basically trying to express and help people understand our sonic signature before the first release lands. 

If we look at the bigger picture, there isn’t really a established minimal scene to speak of in Norway and we see it as our mission to help spread the music that we love across the country, while contributing to a healthy growth in the community. 

Will the club events be about testing what works for the floor or providing a platform for the artists and the releases that will make up the Sous-Vide catalogue? 

More of the latter, I think. We are all feeling confident about our sound and what direction our music should go in, so it’s more about creating a fundament and stage for our artists to grow from. It’s also a part of attracting people to our sound and building a community piece by piece. 

The set we’re streaming today was taken from the first event. How do you approach a genre like Techno in the current situation, and in what way did you have to adapt the music to make it work? 

These questions can be a little tricky since it all comes down to our subjective relationship with the term “techno”. To me it’s not a great description of our music and carries with it a more intense, pounding sound. Our music is strictly groove-based minimal that is focusing more on the elegant side of electronic dance music. Given that what we play is naturally a bit muted and less intense, I think we haven’t really had to adapt much at all. In any case way less than someone playing what I think of as techno, in a setting where people can’t get their steam out on the dance floor. 

Is this something that proved to give Sous-Vide and advantage compared to a more traditional approach to the genre in this situation? 

I don’t know if we could call it an advantage given the current situation, but we believe our audience is naturally more in the zone to pay attention to the music and not necessarily the party going on around them. 

Dolbah, Matiago and Pål Thomas joined you the last time at Jaeger. What do these DJs represent for you that’s ingrained in the approach of the label? 

Well, the four of us actually make up the SVR administration right now. Each person holds a key role in the label and are also part owners. 

Keeping in mind the last part of your question, one of my key goals is for SVR to work as a platform for our artists to grow from. Take Matiago and Pål Thomas for example: they are young, up-and-coming artists in the Norwegian scene, and through the imprint they get opportunities to play on good stages with an interested crowd. Seeing moments like these guys’ first gig in the Jaeger backyard is priceless and motivates me to keep working with music. 

It’s a real and passionate journey we have started that I’m super excited to see where it goes. 

Are the DJ’s relevant to the label, or is there a definite distinction between the DJs that you book for an event, and the artists that you’ll put out on the label? 

There is no definite distinction between the DJs and the artists as we will book releasing artists to our events and compliment the lineup with our in-house residents. Some of us like myself & Dolbah will also deliver productions to the label as well as playing gigs. We think all artists booked to an SVR event are relevant to the label because they curate our sonic image. 

Have you finalised the lineup for the next event, and what should people expect for this one? 

Yes I have! We are bringing the two minimal lads Rado and Yordan Kirilov from Trondheim to extend the sound in the sauna together with our residents. These guys for sure know how to keep the groove rolling so expect sexy minimal house cuts and a lot of unreleased SVR tracks. 

We look forward to having you back. Anything you’d like to add before we see you in the sauna? 

I’m really looking forward for our next Sauna adventure as well. Actually, there is one more important thing I want to share with you: 

As you know, our name means “under vacuum”. We want to give back to our local community, and we see it as our mission to help people who might feel like they’re stuck in a vacuum. Walking through the streets of Oslo there are many people who could use a helpful hand, and even the smallest of gestures can make a difference in someone’s life. For example, we plan to contribute by designating part of the proceeds from our overall sales towards providing warm clothes to those who are facing a cold and unforgiving winter here in Oslo. This means all people buying an SVR release will directly contribute to help our friends on the streets.

 

Greetings from Jaeger – A summer like no other

There’s been a tendency in the media to compare our current situation to a lived-experience we’ve not confronted since the second world war. While I’ve found the comparison somewhat disproportionate to the horrifying reality of a war situation, at the same time it doesn’t quite capture just how extraordinary these times are. 

The countless lives lost to this unseen terror, where a mere sniffle to some could be life threatening to others and the constant thought of passing some inconspicuous disease onto somebody else or vice versa, as had us completely re-assess every aspect of how we live our lives. Everything from the way that we work to the way we socialise has changed drastically from the ordinary, and it’s hard to estimate what the permanent repercussions of the coronavirus will eventually be for the human race. Will we go on sneezing forever, our nose buried in our elbows, will the greeting as embrace eventually cease to exist, or will we forever be watching DJ sets from our computer screens?

 While we’re all very hopeful that a vaccine will be forthcoming, this could take years according to even the most liberal estimations and with cases flaring and as the virus continues to take lives, we have to accept these measures as the new norm in our society, at least for the time-being. But as humans we’ve always been resilient and we easily adapt to our circumstances, especially during a time of crisis. Part of our coping mechanism with difficult situations is the need to escape mentality, even if it’s just for a moment, and pursue a leisure activity, to regather the strength to go forward. And that’s why we dance.

For the best part of human existence music and dancing has played a significant role in the purely hedonistic pursuit in our coping mechanism and in the era of electronic dance music, the modern day club has been both initiating the desire and fulfilling the need for generations wanting to escape their daily circumstances. Whether it’s simply finding an outlet for work frustrations or the far more serious escape from racially- or gender incited persecution, club culture is always in constant dialogue with its social- and cultural surroundings to a point where it’s almost always at odds with the world around it. It’s possibly the last truly liberal safe space and that’s why it’s more important than ever that we persevere in our endeavours as a club at Jaeger. 

While the dance floor remains an elusive concept, we’ve been resolute in our efforts to keep the music going and give whatever counts for a scene a home. You might have seen/heard us streaming as we strived to reach those that can’t reach us under the strict conditions of the pandemic and when our diligent residents answered our call as we tentatively kick-started Jaeger’s sound system in May

Playing at a restrained volume and on a tempered beat, we’ve been able to facilitate a limited capacity and a seated audience with a reserved  DJ schedule, shortly after the most severe restrictions were lifted. During this time Finnebassen has joined our ranks as the defacto Thursday resident and Olle Abstract has taken over Sundays, spreading the gospel of House for a new concept called Sunday Service. 

Olle Abstract inaugurated the new concept under the pretext of Black Lives Matter after we bared witness yet again to the institutionalised racism in the American justice system after the  killing of George Floyd. It not only jarred – how can this type of thing still be happening? – but it also opened our eyes to the institutionalised racism happening everywhere, and even affecting some of our closest friends at Jaeger. Jaeger and Olle Abstract  dedicated the Sunday Service to the cause in an effort to raise funds for the cause with a DJ marathon from our sauna booth, with all proceeds going to the Black Lives Matter organisation. It  is but a drop in the ocean compared to what Black American music has given us, so this will not just be an isolated event at Jaeger, and we’ll continue to monitor the situation and help out where we can. We can always do better.

It seemed that between covid-19 and Black Lives Matter, issues kept expounding on each other, in some gloomy apocalyptic glare at our future, and it’s now more than ever that we need some kind respite from the real world, even just for a moment. Luckily we still have the music and as of June we’ve been allowed to stay open longer and move a little freer. We’ve started stretching the legs on our sound system just a little more as we pushed up the tempo and the volume, and while we still can’t accommodate a densely packed dance floor like the kind we had at Richie Hawtin in 2019 under the new regulations, a  shuffle at your table is welcomed and even encouraged. 

In part due to Ola Smith-Simonsen, the authorities pushed through the new 03:00 AM opening hours, but we’re still focussed on the health and safety of our patrons and our staff. We’ll be practising social distancing throughout July, including the queue outside and we urge everybody to help us contain the spread of this virus. The sooner we can curb it, the sooner we can get back to the dance floor. 

With that in mind  we’ve assembled a lineup representing the best of Oslo in July, playing from our sauna with our newly established residencies Sunday Service and Finnebassen settled and a new residency in the form of Loving Tuesdays, presented by Vari Loves starting this month. Our weekday favourite and longest-serving residency, Mandagsklubben is back and we’re operating at seven days a week again… the way it should be. Prins Thomas also returns in July for the second edition of Serenity Now(!) on Saturday the 25th and on Wednesdays we continue to pursue a kaleidoscopic melange of musical flavours from Drum n Bass to Techno.

Downstairs, you might have already heard the low rumble coming from our subterranean cabin as we shake loose the speaker enclosures of the sound system. Ola has been tuning and fiddling there throughout June because as of July we’ll be hosting selected nights from Diskon again. Yes the basement floor will gather dust no longer as g-HA, DJ Ost, Øyvind Morken and Roland Lifjell take up position in the booth throughout Frædag in July.

It is truly the first time in my 5-year history at Jaeger that I’ve seen an all-star Oslo lineup like this, and while the covid-19 situation is hardly something to find positives in, I’m hoping that we can finally turn the focus back on the resident and local DJ during this time. I’ve always been astounded by the quality of DJs in the city, and I’ve often found it a bit odd that we’ve placed so much emphasis on the “booking” than on the DJ  right on our doorstep. If there is one silver-lining that I hope that we take from this is that we realise the importance of the resident DJ, the true facilitator, somebody so embedded in a scene with an intimate knowledge of their dance floor and their audience standing on threshold, rather than warming up for somebody who is often less attuned to Oslo’s needs.

This will be the summer of the resident amongst other things, and we hope you’ll join us as we try to find some solace in these truly unprecedented times. We’ll do everything in our power to ensure your health and safety and provide some escape from the daily worries, even if it’s just a moment of repose as we continue to live with what could become the new norm. We hope you have a good summer and that we can share some of it with you.

See you on the dance floor….

BigUP! – The first and last frontier for DnB and jungle in Oslo

Drum n Bass is stronger than ever and in Oslo where it’s popularity has never waned in the margins of club music, a crew has emerged from the depths of the scene to fly the flag for the genre from this wave to the next. BigUP has been a fundamental force in the current push happening in Oslo, resonating with a renewed interest in the genre happening all around the world. 

Constituting a few generations of DJs and producers who cover the vast expanse of DnB and Jungle, BigUP represents every nuanced corner of the genre and community in Norway. Over the last few years they’ve been bringing sounds from liquid to hardcore to club spaces around Oslo, with regular appearances at Jaeger. They came back to their traditional midweek spot at Jaeger two weeks ago with the cameras trained on them. 

Even during these difficult times, Drum n Bass proved itself resilient yet again, as BigUP made a show of their expansive interpretation of all things drum n Bass and Jungle with Lug00ber, Tech, Drunkfunk, Simon Petter and Fjell representing the crew from our sauna. In the down time between their visit and now, we reached you to the bigUP! crew to ask some questions while we premiere their set on YouTube. 

Tell me about the origins of BigUP! and the circumstances and ideas that informed the beginning of the crew?

Fjell: Late 2017 the guitar player of my band sent me a link to an announcement by Oslo Sportsbar, in which they were looking for DJ’s to play on a monthly basis. 

Having had a concept before (Percussive Maintenance at Skuret bar in Oslo) I sent in my resume, i.e. some poster designs and mixes.  

In January 2018 I got invited to do a short test run in the bar which I did together with Drunkfunk, and from that point on we kept playing on a monthly basis. Late 2018 we moved to Naboens pub’s basement and have been playing there until the quarantine in April 2020, together with the gigs at Jaeger.

The main thought behind Bigup is to let people have a proper night out at a concept where they can expect the deeper and more soulful styles of D’n’B and Jungle. 

Typical for our concept is to have the DJs play 2 half-hour sets: An early and late slot, which brings a lot of variety in both style and tempo. This also gives the DJs the opportunity to play for a smaller and larger audience during the nights.   

How did you all find each other, and was there anything constituting a scene that brought you together?

Fjell: We pretty much ran into each other during the different DnB nights that ran the last decade and a half here in Oslo, both on the dancefloor and behind the decks. The scene here is pretty open and in general both the audience and DJ’s are very easy going. So I can say we were friends quite some years before we became the ‘Bigup’ crew.

My first thought after getting the monthly gig was to share it with the DJ’s I knew who had the drive and the experience from running other concepts:

Drunkfunk and Tech I know from ‘Room 101’ at the Villa, I knew they could deliver good sets and their selections would really compliment mine.

Simon Peter I know from ‘SubPub’ at Maksitaksi (RIP), where he on a weekly basis kept the underground DnB scene alive and delivered deep selections that would fit Bigup perfectly.   

-Tech: I actually played as a guest DJ a couple of times before getting “voted in” for a steady position in the crew ;)  

Who is BigUp! today?

– Drunkfunk: Residents are Fjell, Tech, Simon Peter and Drunkfunk but we are known to invite a lot of local talents.

Drum n Bass in Norway for me seems to congregate around a small but dedicated community today, but what is the history behind the genre here and where do you guys factor into it?

– Drunkfunk: We have to give a massive shout out to the one like DJ Subway for promoting local DJs with Room101 at The Villa for over 10 years and counting. He is now living in Bergen and building the scene there. The scene might be small but not lacking DJ’s with variation of styles. What we lack in size we take back in consistency over many years. 

With Bigup we like to play jungle and DnB from the last three decades to brand new music all in one night.

– Fjell: It is like the Asterix comics; DnB in Norway is the rebellious little village that won’t give in to the greater powers, being house/techno and pop music (The Romans in the comics). We cannot blame the clubs for choosing the more popular genres to attract a larger audience, but as a subculture it feels like we really have to prove ourselves more nowadays.

Luckily, clubs like Jaeger give subcultures like DnB the chance to develop and reach a larger audience. 

-Tech: The popularity of Jungle and DnB in Oslo (and Norway) has had its highs and lows over the years since I moved to Oslo in the early nineties, but being in a good, solid crew helps us to never give up.

Some of DnB’s biggest stars like TeeBee is Norwegian. What is it about the genre that resonates with Norwegian artists and DJs like yourselves?

– Drunkfunk: Future Prophecies, TeeBee and K sure helped to put it on the map here early. Still remember the first time I heard TeeBee track “Fingerprints” on the radio.

-Tech: TeeBee was a resident DJ back in the days when the The Jazid Club started doing the Oxygen DnB nights and it meant a lot. (Jazid was the first proper club I played at and Oxygen was the first crew I joined in Oslo)

TeeBee has been important for the scene and truly deserves the success he has today.

Like so many underground cultures, DnB too went through a heightened phase of popularity with some questionable examples coming to the fore. How do you distinguish the core fundamentals of genre from its more gaudy, insincere interpretations?

– Drunkfunk: We never pay any attention to the charts. DnB has a healthy underground foundation with a well of music to choose from.

– Fjell:  Very much so, only a select few can make a living from DJ-ing and/ or producing DnB, but there are more popular styles that attract a larger audience. They have very little in common with what we play on our nights. 

-Simon: 100% underground. This is without a doubt a labour of love. A shared appreciation of the sound. 

– Tech: Sure, there are DnB charts helping people to discover the genre, but I think we´re more into finding the tracks WE love and presenting them to the audience.

It seems that the genre is experiencing a bit of a revival today, especially amongst younger audiences. Why do you think it’s gained popularity recently again?

– Drunkfunk: DnB is the parent to dubstep that came out in the mid 2000s. I think kids growing up with dubstep as their soundtrack are likely to explore its roots.

– Fjell: I think streaming services like Youtube and Spotify make it easier to find out about DnB and Jungle. The younger generation is somewhat fascinated by 90’s rave culture – Partying seemed less restricted, something I think still resonates with DnB nights. 

-Simon: Not really feeling the growth in Norway, but going to festivals like Outlook in Croatia you can easily see how popular the sound is with youth from all over the planet. DnB never really went away, but it’s definitely making a comeback.

-Tech: It´s always good to see new faces at our parties, but the scene is still quite small, so we never know how many people will turn up each time.

And what sets this era apart from the late nineties early 2000’s when it was at the absolute height of its popularity?

-Drunkfunk: Since the late 90s DnB grew to a worldwide scene online. DnB has always been in fusion with current music and pushing for the freshest sound. The difference now is that we have a back catalog of gems from the last 20 years.

– Fjell: Producing has become more accessible, the sound has become more organic and there are a lot more subgenres than before. Thanks to modern hardware and software it is easier to get into making DnB and experimenting with the sound.

-Tech: Yeah, agree with Fjell here, it´s much easier for new artists and small labels to do releases these days, both digital and on vinyl.

From what I can tell, the BigUP! Crew is made up of a few generations of DJs.  How does the crew keep evolving through each generation? 

– Drunkfunk: That is a great question! 

-Tech: Well, yeah, I´m the oldest one in the crew, but it’s nice to see that new generations (both DJ´s and crowd) have been finding the DnB scene. We don’t care too much about the age difference in the crew, we focus on the music and we inspire each other!

What are some of the seminal DnB classics that you can all agree on?

– Drunkfunk: “Up all night” – John B

– Fjell: ”The Angels fell” – Dillinja

-Simon: “Stalker”  Aphrodite

-Tech: This is too hard!  Q Project – Champion Sound (Alliance Remix) (plus the original and a lot of other remixes)

What is the common thread that ties all these generations together?

– Drunkfunk: Great passion for basslines

– Fjell:  DnB’s easy access. It’s often a blend of different cultures, looks and age on the dancefloor.  No one seems to judge.

– Simon: Love for the sound.

– Tech: Rhythm is key.

And what in your opinion are some of the future stars of the genre here in Norway and further afield and what are some of the newer tracks that are inspiring you today?

– Fjell:  Next to myself (https://soundcloud.com/fjellmusic) I only know a few other people in Norway that are actively producing and releasing, for Jungle I would say ‘Msymiakos’ (https://soundcloud.com/msymiakos) and for Liquid tunes I’d recommend ‘Nostre’ (https://soundcloud.com/nostre-official).

Let’s not forget our frequent guest ‘Lug00ber’ (https://soundcloud.com/lug00ber) and our friends in “Skankin’ Oslo” (https://soundcloud.com/skankinoslo)

Newer tracks that inspired me: ”Jungle Crack” – Forest Drive West , ”True Rebellion” Coco Bryce ft Dead Man’s Chest

– Simon: Watch out for the one they call Bootldr! https://www.mixcloud.com/bootldrDNB/

Is there anything else you’d like to add before we see you again?

Massive BigUps to all the supporting clubbers that have partied with us!

And to the Junglist DJs: Lug00ber, The Skankin’ Oslo kru, Mira Mark, DJ Subway, Harold Lloyd, DJ Hova, DJ Spacebear, DJ Dunder, Digital Cookboy , Instance, This Mean War!, DJ Saraa, Bootldr, DJ Large, Psychofreud, DJ Apecat(RIP), Tony Anthem and Future Prophecies

Thanks to Jæger to having us onboard.

Sunday Service: Black Lives Matter Fundraiser

Olle Abstract and Jaeger dedicates this Sunday Service to the black Lives Matter movement and the victims of racial injustice

Black Lives Matter. Jaeger is the result of the influence of Black American culture on music, and therefore we will always stand in solidarity with all the people behind the Black Lives Matter movement and the victims of racism in America. As a community of mostly white, European music enthusiasts living in Norway we can never assume to know the experiences of Black people, but we’ll support Black Lives and Black Culture in any way we can, because we owe everything to the existence of Black Music, especially House, Techno and Electro. 

Needless to say, we are absolutely appalled by the killing of George Floyd and the unwarranted police attacks – largely incited by the racist tyrant, Donald Trump –  that followed and we stand united with the protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement. As people that have indelibly benefited from the black music culture, we condemn these actions and we would like to add our voice to the growing chorus of dissent and call for an end to the senseless killing of Black people in America and the institutionalised racism that still exists in the US police forces and political elite. We realise that we have white privilege on our side and we’d like to use that privilege today in voicing our absolute contempt for any form of racism, starting with a fundraiser for Black Lives Matter. 

After observing #TheShowMustBePaused, we’re dedicating this Sunday’s edition of the Sunday Service with Olle Abstract to George Floyd, his family and all the victims of racially incited police brutality in the USA. We will donate all the takings from the door on the night to the Black Lives Matter who is currently working tirelessly to end the war on black lives in the USA by mobilising these protests with the “vision to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”

This is an evening of reverence for Black Lives and Black American Culture so please join Olle and guests in solemn protest as they pick through a legacy enshrined in the records that sparked a life-long obsession and a career. Claes Hogedal, Daniel Gude, Della, Fredfades, Phardin, Ra-Shidi, WNDR and more join the godfather of House music in Norway in the sauna booth in a show of solidarity from our humbled community, saying thank you to the culture that created this music as we stand united in their cause. 

For more information please go to Black Lives Matter and the TheShowMustBePaused

Here are some other helpful resources:

Equal Justice Initiative

Official George Floyd Memorial Fund

Community Bail Funds for George Floyd protests

 

Greetings from Jaeger: Still streaming

We bid farewell to Retro on Thursdays and inaugurate a new Sunday concept with Olle Abstract

These unprecedented times have called for some unusual measures, ushering in a very… unique era for our culture and this music, with everything from DJs to festivals migrating to the virtual realm of streaming platforms. Even in Oslo, where we’ve seen some of the restrictions lifted early, we’ve still had to adapt to the challenging  situation. With a limited capacity and seating room only we’re bringing the party to your screen, streaming every DJ set live to mixcloud from our sauna DJ booth in our backyard.

Our residents and some old friends have gathered in the booth under the camera’s lens these past two weeks to deliver sets that err on the temperate side to accommodate the nature of the situation. Frædag, Nightflight and Retro have hosted lineups featuring the residents and guests with pop-up concepts like Mutual Intentions and Big UP!  jumping in where needed. For the last two weeks they’ve been playing to the intimate crowd in our backyard while our watchful eye, broadcasted sets from the likes g-HA, Olefonken, Fredfades, Daniel Gude, Kompressorkanonen, Doc L, Junior and Olanskii to the rest of the world as part of our new JaegerStream series.

In the third week of JaegerStream we do more of the same, with Frædag, Nightflight and Retro in situ for a long weekend, which sees us bid farewell to the longest serving residency on our weekly calendar and welcome Olle Abstract back to Jaeger with a new Sunday residency. Although, it’s not exactly business as usual here yet, we’re maintaining some sliver of a remanence for our culture and this music, and while the dance floor remains closed, we can at least bring a little of the groove back to our lives, through the new streaming event.

The big news this week  at JaegerStream is that we bid farewell to Retro on Thursdays. Daniel Gude has been at the helm of the longest serving residency at Jaeger since opening and between international bookings and local legends, he and Retro has been honouring the roots of this music all this time. With an esteemed alumni that runs the gamut from Jeff Mills to Sotofett and from Daniel’s extensive record collection, Retro has been our unwavering guide through the classics and future classics of our scene. Daniel Gude hands over the Thursday night to Finnebassen this week, who inaugurates his new concept next week, but while Daniel bids farewell to Thursdays he and Retro will come back on some select Saturdays in the future.

Finnebassen is not the only one bringing a new residency to Jaeger this week as Olle Abstract returns to Jaeger for a new Sunday Service concept. It’s a spiritual movement in music for a different kind of Sunday mass at Jaeger with g-HA as his first guest. We use the long weekend for the first edition of Sunday Service with Whit Monday on the other end to soothe the soul. We’re still not able to go as long or as hard as we’re used to, but we’ll continue to bring the music and the party where we can, even to your screen. Thanks for tuning in…

Greetings from Jaeger.

 

In the booth with David Morales

David Morales has forgotten more about House music than any artist working within the field today can claim to know. The New York DJ, producer, remixer and label owner was there at the advent of the genre, counting Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan as contemporaries. He had played the Paradise Garage, frequented the Loft and held residencies at places like Zanzibar, but his biggest contribution, remains in his efforts in bringing House music to the masses with remixes for Mariah Carey, Jamiroquai and Michael Jackson dotting an ever-impressive discography.

Alongside Frankie Knuckles, he established the Def Mix label, and as a DJ he was one of the first DJs ever to warrant the superstar status and toured the world. Highlights in the House music lexicon regularly dot his career. Winning the grammy for remixer of the year, sets and residencies during Ibiza’s late nineties reign; and tracks like “Needin’ you,” had maintained his prominence in the House music scene which culminates today in a continued appeal as a world-renowned DJ and producer. David Morales has had a career in House music three times over and in his latest venture, the label DIRIDIM, he’s established yet another new phase in a career that continues to evolve without losing sight of those all-important roots of the genre. 

A figure that assumes the legacy of the genre and the New York faction of its roots, David Morales represents a ideology that we’ve always tried to encourage and underscore at Jaeger and during a recent set at Frædag, he helped g-HA & Olanskii and Olefonken instill this ideology again. Between gospel-influenced vocals, syncopated hats, deep bass grooves and four on the floor kicks, David Morales put together a set of mostly original music and edits, bridging the gap between the origins of this music and its future. 

We caught up with Mr. Morales whortly after to ask some questions while we listen back to his enigmatic set, recorded in our basement. You can read a full profile on him here.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for us. We really enjoyed your set here and particularly listening back to it today. Did playing at Jaeger, direct you in any way  you thought you might not have gone into ahead of the night? 

Not at all. Before I accepted the gig I was told that the night was all about house music and that the crowd appreciated good music.

All those classic elements of House are in there, the vocals, the syncopated percussion and four on the floor. While those core elements remain, House has gone through an immense evolution through the course of your career, but what is the ultimate appeal for you as a DJ that keeps you interested and excited about the genre? 

There’s a lot of good new music out. The problem is that you have to listen to a lot of bad music to find it. You have to evolve with the times. The game has changed but music is still music. And people still like to dance to music. I’ve tried every format of Djing as in vinyl, CDJ’s and computer. They’re all interesting. At the end of the day it’s about the music.

I’ve read some interviews where you’ve mentioned that you weren’t really that inspired or influenced by your Latin roots and music, but I thought I heard some Latin rhythms in this mix in the beginning. What is your relationship with those roost today?

It’s funny because since I became a producer/songwriter I got to really appreciate my roots. I’m sorry that I didn’t appreciate it earlier. But I love a good rhythm and when it comes to latin music it’s all about the rhythm.

As somebody that was at the forefront of House music from the beginning, do you feel that distance between you and your audience has grown and how do you try and maintain that relevance? 

That’s a very interesting question… As a DJ that’s been playing for 44 years, I’ve outgrown my audience twice easily, maybe even 3 times. I mean most of the people that I grew up with got married, kids even grandchildren. They don’t represent the scene today like they did when they were younger. If I wasn’t Djing I wouldn’t be going out clubbing unless it’s a reunion night. I know that I’m not in the same demand as I was 10,15, 20 years ago. All DJ’s come up with a following. The hard part is maintaining some sort of relevance. I’m lucky that DJing has no age limit. And as long as you stay current with your music, the art of Djing is what it is.

How do you think the role of the DJ has changed from when you first started playing to today? 

Well technology for one. And now you have social media. Also the biggest change is set times. Rarely does a DJ play the whole night. So the biggest thing is that there’s no continuity or should I say flow. Therefore there are less risks taken. It’s hard to express yourself when you only have 1-2 hours to play. Also the DJ was not the focal point. You were up in the clouds somewhere or hidden in the corner. And let’s face it the money has changed DRAMATICALLY!

Besides “Finally” at the end, all the pieces in your mix favour a contemporary. What do you look for in music today to make it into your sets, and where do you draw the line when it comes to older pieces?

Most of my set is 90% of my new productions and remixes mixed in with other new music. I, on occasion, throw in a classic. What makes a good DJ is choosing good music.

Are you still editing / remixing lots of music to work in your sets today?

Yes very much. I’m in the studio almost everyday during the week. I’m always prepared. I always travel with my studio. Thank god for technology.

It seems that since establishing Diridim, you’ve been far more active in making and producing music again. What inspired you to start your own label again, and what has the label encouraged in terms of music for you?

After DEF MIX I felt that it was time for a new chapter. It’s why I started DIRIDIM which means “the rhythm”. Diridim is all about where my head is at now musically. I want to experiment with new sounds and talent, there’s so much talent out there. I want to branch out into world music and bridge it all together.

Those distinctive elements in your music, the vocals and the progression through your tracks remains central to your work on the label. What are some of the fundamental ideologies that inform your work and the label and how has it evolved throughout your career? 

I grew up on an intro, break and outro. The journey that a track or song is supposed to take you on. It’s no different than any kind of music.

What effect has launching the label and this new music had on your DJ sets? 

It has had a huge effect on my sets. The only difference is that I’m playing my own music more than others. 

Club music and House music is so popular today,  and although it still feels quite a way off from its peak in the mid to late nineties, you’ve experienced it all before I imagine. So, from experience alone, where do you see the music going from here and what do you hope to get out of it in the future?

I just hope to see and keep music alive and thriving.

Seizing the moment with Optimo

Back in the late nineties, there was something close to a movement of music enthusiasts that sought to redefine the parameters of what constitutes a DJ and a club night. It was a bolstered by an unique attitude and an innovative pursuit that defied any idea of zeitgeist or tradition for the sake of infusing some excitement on stale dance floosr. It went from some unilateral persuasion amongst a handful of DJs to spread across the world in a complete shift in the universal spirit to DJing and club nights, and today some of these DJs are held in the highest esteem the world over. 

In Glasgow and Scotland Optimo Espacio held court in this era. The club night and DJ duo, often foreshortened to simply Optimo, had not merely instilled this new attitude to DJing and clubbing in Scotland, but eventually played a significant hand in setting the stage for what soon became an international pre-occupation to dig further and deeper through their record collections, flouting the preconceptions and conventions that had become entrenched in club culture.

J.G Wilkes and J.D Twitch (Keith McIvor) are Optimo, and their club night, Optimo Espacio at Sub Club in Glasgow had been a kind of Mecca for clubbing enthusiasts for over 13 years before they brought it to its inevitable conclusion at the height of its popularity. From the club night, they became sensations on the international DJ circuit and set up Optimo records and various sub-labels as a continuation of the indelible spirit they continue to cultivate from the booth. 

Their legacy is enshrined today in the annals of DJing and clubbing and as Optimo, they continue to imbibe the spirit which has set them apart since their humble beginnings, playing to intimate crowds in Sub Club. Today they are fixtures on an international DJ circuit that they helped establish and through new releases like Bergsonist’s latest on Optimo records, they continue to flout preconceptions and conventions. With a return-visit to Jaeger looming for Hubbas Klubb, we’ve seized the opportunity to send through some questions to the DJ duo in an effort to find out more about the origins of their club night and their continued pursuit of that individual attitude to DJing. 

*Optimo play Hubbas Klubb this Saturday.

Hello guys, and thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. When you started working together and established the Optimo Espacio night. What kind of music were you bonding over at that time and how did it inform what would eventually become the night?

J.G Wilkes: I really think it was more a case of us bonding over the type of music we DIDN’T want to play – that which was prevalent in a lot of clubs and parties around the mid to late 90’s. Something that people were calling Techno but which wasn’t Techno at all! We wanted to play “other” records at the party and make it really fun to play. It was precarious at times and it felt that anything might happen musically. I loved that about it and I would definitely align that kind of excitement with a sense of freedom which is so important when I think about what we do. Maybe that is the appeal of Optimo to a lot of people – I hope so anyhow.

It’s important to remember that it was very much about the people who supported and attended so faithfully week in and week out. They made the Optimo (Espacio) party what it was.

How does it affect your approach to Djing when playing together?

Wilkes: We kept it fun and when something is fun it’s easy to keep your enthusiasm for it and keep challenging oneself. I guess there must be a shared energy we possess for making what we do evolve and stay interesting. 

Jonnie you came from an art background, and Optimo Espacio came at a time when there was a confluence between clubland and the artworld. Were these two things something you could consolidate around Optimo Espacio as well?

Wilkes: At that time I was still showing work and was represented by a couple of galleries but I wanted to withdraw from the art world. I was finding it increasingly difficult to exist there for many reasons. When Optimo Espacio started we were building something from scratch and that was a great opportunity for me to both commit fully to dj-ing but also to get a degree of fulfilment from “making” and “doing” visual stuff as well… 

You’ve said in the past there was an idea for the night before it happened. What was that initial idea and how did it change through the course of its lifetime?

Wilkes: The best way I can describe our initial idea was that we seized the opportunity to play a real breadth of music in a club context – at a location (The Sub Club, Glasgow) that was pretty much known only for house music prior to that. It was something we really craved at the time and that I personally had not been brave enough to do very often before. There was no manifesto or rigid strategy initiated when we embarked on the journey but I would say, our openness to all sorts of music coupled with a kind of DIY approach to organising the parties – a quite anarchic spirit for want of a better term remains with us still.

In a recent Interview with Erol Alkan, he mentioned you as one of the contemporary spirits in the international DJ community – DJs that were essentially bringing a much needed diversity to dance floors again. Were you aware that the diversity of you were bringing to your nights was happening simultaneously all over the world at that time, or were you operating in a pretty isolated scene? 

J.D Twitch: We had no idea initially; not a clue. We started Optimo in 1997. I didn’t get on the internet until 1999 / 2000 and it was only maybe around 2002/3 that we became aware of other kindred spirits and started to play outside Scotland.

How was it all interpreted differently perhaps in Glasgow compared to places like London and Paris?

Twitch: I think people in Glasgow, at least back then, were less concerned with being caught up with perceptions of cool and just 100% devoted themselves to having the best possible time, and having wide open ears.

Sub Club played a pivotal role in the success of the night too. What made it so special, and do you think it was something that you could have recreated in any other venue

Twitch:  It was by far the best venue in the city but the thing that was really important was that they believed in us, much more than we did ourselves. For the first 18 months of doing our weekly nights there the crowd was wildly enthusiastic but small. Maybe 100 people would come which was fine with us but probably not financially good for the club. I think after a few months of this most venues would have booted us out but The Sub Club really believed this was something important and was going to really take off, and of course they were right.

When you started playing abroad as Optimo, how were you able to transport that spirit of your nights to different places all over the world? 

Twitch:  By not giving a fuck really, but actually it was probably more naivety. We were used to doing what we did every week so initially just did it without thinking if it would translate. Of course often it didn’t and sometimes we would tone it down a bit or at least modify it slightly as to me there is no point emptying clubs.

You ended Optimo Espacio on a significant high note and besides that and your growing DJ commitments, what was the reason behind shutting the residency down at that exact time? (I believe you were still on tour when you made the announcement.)

It felt to me that we were at the absolute peak of the weekly night and the only way was down. It could almost certainly run weekly for a few more years but the idea of it slowly dwindling away was too depressing so it felt right to end on a massive high. Also, it was so all consuming and it was important to have time to do other projects, like having the labels etc. 

13 years is still a long time for a club night, especially at that time, when everybody was going from one thing to the next quite quickly. How did you maintain that excitement around it for so long?

Twitch: By being in love with what we were doing and giving it 100% dedication, every week. It was such an incredible experience every single week that that was enough motivation to put 100% into the next week. I devote huge amounts of my time to sourcing music for my DJ sets, music that is mostly unique to me, not just playing promos I get sent to my email inbox. What is the point of that? I might as well be a jukebox as everyone else just does that too. Working hard to find music is something I think is hugely important and that having a unique voice is the single most important thing about being a DJ. I think most DJs are pretty lazy about this but I am lazy compared to how I was when we were doing the club weekly. I would dedicate insane amounts of time to making sure it was always fresh, always exciting, never boring. 

Were there ever times when it went through slumps, and how did you usually overcome those kinds of obstacles?

Twitch: No, never. After 18 months of there being 100 people there it totally took off and for the next 12 years was always packed. I don’t ever remember worrying about the numbers attending.

Going from residents to touring DJs and then also establishing a few labels around the concept, the Optimo name lived on, but was it a case of directing the ideas and philosophy of the club night into these different avenues? 

Wilkes: Something I’ve realised – we work really hard to make very aspect of what we do as good as it possibly can be. We tour really hard, Keith’s commitment to the label is ferocious, if we do are own parties we put the same energy into this as we always have, the same applies obviously for our DJ sets. All this is done well because we really enjoy it. As I said before, it’s not a rigid strategy but we do possess this shared energy and a strong work ethic which feeds into everything we do. 

I believe your most recent endeavour is a new sub label called Weaponise Your Sound. Where does this fit into the Optimo spectrum?

Twitch: It is a sub- label run by my friend and ally Kristina McCormack who does the Diet Clinic show on NTS which showcases women DJs and artists. I just facilitate the releases – the A&R is 100% down to her. It fits into the Optimo spectrum as I trust her taste and vision and have known her a very, very long time.

The Optimo label is still putting out quite a diverse range of music, and the most recent addition is Bergsonist, whose music plays between elements of electronica and traditional eastern influences. What usually draws you to the records that make into the label?

 Twitch: So much music comes my way. I can only explore a fraction of it, but am blessed so much of its is unique and great. Bergsonist reached out to me and I was instantly smitten by her music. She is madly talented. I am drawn to artists that sound like themselves, have an outlook and attitude I can relate to and make music that blows my mind. 

I know it’s mainly Keith that runs the label, but is there any relationship to the label, and the sound of your DJ sets?

Twitch: Yes, the labels are my thing and that causes some confusion. I have some new labels launching, the first of which is called Cease & Desist and is a label for compilations. . I wouldn’t release anything I wouldn’t play in a DJ set so there is a relationship for sure.

As DJs, you continue to bring that diversity to your sets, and even if there is at times a theme tying your sets together, you seem to be able to extend it to the absolute limits. It’s always dynamic and exciting, especially in an era dominated by very niche DJs. What do you think it is about your approach to music that still sets you apart from the rest?

Wilkes: I guess everyone is wired differently and perhaps some dj’s feel that they want to stick to what they know they are good at or what has always worked for them or what they see as their area of expertise – that’s fine. I admire a lot of dj’s who have this high level of detail to what they do – or as you say, it’s a kind of niche. If it is our thoughts on music in a broad sense, the notion that music in many different forms possesses power, can move people, can bring them together, can inspire radical thought, can convey feelings – it you think those things are real, like I do then maybe it’s a factor in our approach to the role of dj-ing and the music we choose to play, yes.

Do you ever find you have to adapt to a crowd, and how do you usually try and find a compromise then?

Wilkes: Yes we adapt. We feel the space, feel the sound, look at the energy spots in the crowd and work from that. 

There’s a lot of similarities between Oslo and Glasgow’s club scene, and you guys have played here before. How might that knowledge affect what you prepare for the night ahead on this occasion?

Wilkes: You feel that little bit more comfortable for sure if it’s not the first time in a room. One thing that stayed with me about Jaeger was the exquisite sound. When the system is that good then you are at a real advantage when it comes to playing more challenging sounds…with power and detail in the sound you can incorporate music that is just lost on a poor system. It’s very disappointing when you literally have to exclude certain records from the set because a system isn’t capable of conveying their sound the way it is meant to be – so thankfully we don’t have to do this at a club like Jaeger! 

 

Just doing my thing with Danny Daze

Converging on the sounds of Miami Bass, Electro, and Detroit Techno, Danny Daze is a DJ, producer and label head that has forged a singular sound in the booth and the studio for over a decade. 

Born Daniel Gomez, and raised in the vibrant musical landscape of Miami, everything from Salsa/Merengue, Hip Hop and Miami Bass encouraged an audacious youth to a life in music. Break dancing lured a young Danny over to the turntables, establishing a strong tether to contemporary music styles like Electro, where he would forge a career as a DJ. 

Inspired by a local scene of characters like the flamboyant Otto Von Schirach, DJing eventually led to production where Danny almost immediately carved out a career with his debut single, “Your Everything.” 

The Electro leaning track with its mammoth bass-line was strangely co-opted into the all-consuming Deep House trend of the last decade and sought to pigeonhole the DJ and artist into its ranks, but with his signature sets that ran the gamut from Detroit to Miami, critics couldn’t accurately consolidate his sound, which usually erred on the darker edges of body music. 

That criticism merely strengthened Danny’s resolve as he forged ahead in his enduring philosophy of “doing my thing” and after some releases on Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic, Ellum Audio and Kompakt Extra, the rest of the world eventually tuned in on to the Danny Daze wavelength. 

While he was establishing his singular sound as an artist, he was also breaking down boundaries from the booth. Informed by the same eclecticism from his youth where Bjørk could make an appearance in a Hip-Hop and R&B set, Danny’s DJ sets propelled his career even further. His bass-heavy selections, which played on the same corporeal intuitions he had cultivated as a break dancer, had endeared him to an international scene where he has staked an individual claim as a DJ today. 

Sets like his now famous Dekmantel Boiler Room mix, continues to set him apart from the trend-informed contemporaries, with a sincere focus on treading a unique path between elements of Electro, Miami Bass and Techno, leaning towards the darker hues of those musical universes.

In recent years, he’s channeled this unique approach to his music and sets in the equally distinctive, Omnidisc record label with releases from a close knit community of like-minded artists like RHR and Anthony Rother and the rare contribution from Danny Daze.

Between the label, the DJ sets and his music, Danny Daze has foregone the paradigm of  Dj-based music for the sake of the individual and after almost a decade of an internationally renowned artist and even longer as a DJ, it is this what remains at the core of his appeal. It’s Danny Daze doing his thing, and that’s what we found too, when we sent out some questions to Danny ahead of his set at Jaeger next weekend for Frædag

Miami has got such a vibrant musical legacy. What role did that play in your formative years as your ears were opening up to music?

Being able to listen to Salsa/Merengue, Hip Hop and Miami Bass all in a matter of 20 minutes from each other on radio was something I wasn’t aware would push my sound to where it is now. It’s the main reason my taste in music is quite wide. 

As you were coming into your own and aspiring to music was there any kind of scene that you would’ve gravitated towards?

I was always a dancer. When I was 5 years old I was already throwing myself on the floor thinking I was break dancing so naturally I gravitated to that scene. The break dancing scene was commanded by electro and funk so essentially it’s what led me to listening and playing electro. 

How did break dancing lead into DJing?

It happened rather easy. I was obsessed with all forms of break dancing music. From Jimmy Castor to Newcleus. A lot of my friends would come to my house to practice and I had a selection of CDs we would dance. It just naturally progressed to my mother buying me turntables and me DJing around for free at peoples houses. 

I’ve read (although not confirmed) that you were playing Hip Hop and R&B at first. What  influenced you to move over to those Miami Bass, Electro and eventually Techno sounds that you are associated with today?

Nah it’s the other way around actually. I started off in ‘99 playing Electro. I played old school Electro then in ‘00 I heard Nu-skool Electro for the first time. I then got into playing hip hop around ‘03/‘04 because I saw there was money to be made and I enjoyed the turntablism aspect of it. I started a remix/mashup project called DiscoTech which took off really quick in the US. I wasn’t expecting it to take off at all to be honest. I just wanted to earn a living doing something I loved and it ended up taking my partners Joe, Matt and I all over the world. Very unexpected. 

And was it always the darker elements of these genres that attracted you to these sounds?

Always. I remember when I first got into DJing. I got into Florida Breaks which is quite happy. I knew I liked it, but I knew I wanted something darker. Then I heard the Mandroid – B-boy No Comply album and my entire perception of broken beats changed. Then immediately after, Anthony Rother – Dont Stop The Beat absolutely flipped my head upside down and I knew there was no turning back. 

You’ve on more than one occasion mentioned one of my favourite and one of the most underrated electronic music artists in my opinion, Otto Von Schirach as an influence in the past. What role did he play in your development as an artist?

Otto was one of the first live acts I saw in Miami in the very early 2000’s. Along with Dino Felipe and Soul Oddity/Phoenecia. What attracted me to Otto was the fact he just did his thing and till this day he remains focused on his sound. Not only is he the nicest human on earth, the dude just does his thing and that’s it. I was very attracted to that attitude as a youngster because I was surrounded by people in school who constantly looked for some sort of approval or confirmation. I would say that the entire IDM/Electro scene in Miami really changed me as a young teenager. A lot of my friends noticed that change in me early in my high school years.  

I know like Otto, you like those alternative elements to dance and electronic music. How do you factor those elements into your DJ sets today?

Those elements just come in. Not sure how to answer that as it’s the only way I’ve known how to DJ and it’s what I thought DJing was about. Having your own style so you’re not just another jukebox. Even in the Hip Hop days, I experimented. I’d play Bjork right smack in the middle of a 1000 person club who all wanted Biggie. 

You got pigeonholed as a DJ, somewhat unfairly, in that Deep House trend after “Your Everything.” What effect did it have on what you would do next and how did you eventually sidestep it as a DJ?

Yea, that was quite fun to watch and be part of to be honest. That “Your Everything” track to me is not even remotely close to what I used to call Deep House. I always considered Deep House artist like Rick Wade and Mike Huckaby. When I finished that tune, I thought I had made some sort of Miami Bass/Electro-clash/Disco fusion thing. I wasn’t aware it would take me in the direction it took me but I’m glad it did. I got to learn a lot about the industry and how it works within 18 months of that record coming out. I’m honestly not sure how I was able to sidestep it and have people now understand what I’m about, but I think just doing my thing and not worrying too much about what people think really helped. Also, as time went by I think people just noticed my mixes, Dj sets and production just didn’t fit the deep house thing so slowly started peaking into what I do. 

Did you feel you had to adapt the way you produced your music as a result?

At first yes. I thought “oh well, I guess this is where my career is taking me now, might as well try to enjoy it”. It was way better than the Hip Hop/Mainstream world I was part of 6 months prior. I wasn’t aware my record collection from when I started DJing would actually be something I could continue playing over in Europe. As soon as I started touring Europe I noticed I’d be playing clubs where artists like The Advent and Cari Lekebusch were playing the second room. It surprised me and I immediately knew I needed to stick to my guns and not conform but by that time, the pigeonhole had already been cemented and I really needed to push hard so people knew exactly where I came from. It was quite a wild ride.

It was the first Ultramajic release that I always thought defined your sound as producer from that point on. That’s Detroit, Electro and Miami Bass all rolled into one. What was the crucial evolution that established your sound as an artist for you?  

It’s funny cuz what’s established my sound now is me simply rolling back the clock to what I started doing as a bedroom DJ. I was buds with Jimmy Edgar and he had heard some tunes I was working on and asked if I wanted to drop it on a label he was starting. I think that first release on Ultramajic surprised some people because everything about it was a bit different than expected. Not saying it was good or anything, but it was definitely different than expected for many people. Lol. 

Is there a conscious idea behind your music before you create it?

It depends. Sometimes I just wanna bang something out that was an idea floating around in my head, sometimes I’ll go into the studio wanting to experiment with one piece of gear causing something to happen that wasn’t expected. It’s finding that balance between both and knowing how to utilize that time. 

How does your own music relate to the sound of Omnidisc?

Omnidisc is an extension of my musical taste. Stuff I would play in a club, stuff I would listen to at home. It’s helped me shape the sound I want people to expect whenever they hear me play. 

What do you look for in music to make it on to the label and how do you usually come across this music or these artists?

I always look for experimentation in the recording process and want the tracks to tell a story. I get many demos where they simply sound like jam sessions and although these tracks may work in a club, I want people to walk out of a venue and specifically remember a song they heard. All of the artists I’ve released … I either know them personally or their demos have come to me via another artist on the label. At times I’ve received some demos that worked for the label and I signed them, but I really enjoy having a circle of artists who all feel like family with each other. I believe that’s extremely important for the growth of the label both sonically and maintaining its ethos. 

There’s quite some variety in there in terms of the pool of artists. Is there a concerted effort in them to make music specifically for the label, or is it just of you finding music to fit the label, regardless of the artist?

Nah, I like having an artist come back to the label. Artists like Shokh, Anthony Rother, Dean Grenier, Drvg Cvltvre are artists who’ve released multiple times. I’ve never told anyone to make music to “fit the label”. The only criteria I’ve ever had for something to fit the label is the music needs to tell a story. The sound of a label shifts of course, but the main thing for me is for the artist to feel free to experiment and not worry if it will top the charts or not. 

And is there ever a case of adapting the sound of a record to fit the label?

No. I just won’t release the record if too much has to be done to it. It’s happened often where I’ve gotten incredible records that I would play out, but I just don’t release it because there are plenty of other labels that would fit much better with it. It just doesn’t fit the label. 

Your own output remains quite reserved. Is it a case of being your own worst critic?

I’ve always produced music but I like to keep things at a minimum and not over saturate. One, maybe two EPs a year is more than enough for me. This year for example I have an EP coming up on Omnidisc, then releasing some stuff on Schematic Records which includes an album towards the end of the year. 

So what makes a Danny Daze track or record worthy of release?

I’ve got no idea lol …… it mostly has to do with whether or not it feels new to me. It doesn’t have to be anything groundbreaking, but I’ve always needed to feel like it’s something a bit different than what’s popular at the moment. 

Is there a lot of confluence between the music you make, the label, and your DJ sets?

It’s pure confluence that’s for sure. Everything merges and everything shifts at the same time. 

You’ve spent a lot of time between the US and Europe, DJing. How do you feel you have to adapt your sets accordingly and what effect has it had on your DJing in general, playing for a variety of audiences?

Part of being a DJ for me is being able to adapt and embrace without fully removing yourself from your original message. We’re living in a time now where “DJ” doesn’t mean much, but I’ve always respected those who just stick to their guns. Thus why I feel it’s important to have a wide spectrum of influence so you can adapt to what’s needed but maintain the core message of what you want to put out. 

Are there elements in the kind of music you play that is universal between these two regions?

Electronic music is pretty damn universal to be honest. Things have become much more commercial now that the internet is the main source for all things music, but good drums and proper bass lines will always do the trick. No matter where you play. 

This will be your first time at Jaeger. Do you have a way of testing the waters in determining which way your set will go on the night?

I usually go into the venue about an hour before I play and check out the crowd. Depending on set length, I take some left and right turns seeing how weird we can get with the crowd. The weirder the better. 

How do you expect your set to go on this occasion and are there some tracks you’re particularly looking forward to playing?

Absolutely no idea how my set will go buy I hope people don’t start throwing tomatoes at me. Haha. I’ve actually just gotten back the masters to my next Omnidisc EP which features RHR so I’m really looking forward to trying them out at Jaeger. 

http://omnidisc.co

http://instgram.com/dannydaze

http://instagram.com/omnidisc

The spirit of community with Dugnad Rec

Dugnad is a Norwegian term for voluntary work done together with other people.

Dugnad Rec. is a record label, an artist collective and event series with its origins in the communal spirit of Norwegian culture. Founded by Kjetil Jerve and Erland Albertsen and born within the vociferous cauldron of Norway’s improvised Jazz scene, Dugnad Rec began with a single aim in mind. After recording an album together, Kjetil and Erland had struggled to find an outlet for their work, and instead forged ahead to do it themselves. Dugnåd Rec was born. It was a preliminary introduction however and after releasing a second record it almost immediately went into hibernation. 

It would remain dormant, waiting for some coincidental prospect to emerge, but with the two core members not releasing anything, it would take someone working on the fringes of their community to give it the injection it needed. Enter Bendik Baksaas. The Norwegian artist had been sitting on a wealth of material he had created in a fusion of music that channeled the improvised nature of Jazz into the electronic realm and the dance floor, but had yet to find a suitable outlet. Sensing an opportunity and recognising Baksaas’ talents, Kjetil proffered his services and said “release it on Dugnad.”

*Dugnad Rec play Jaeger this Wednesday

“The giant awoke again,” says Gabriel Varskog, sipping on a tepid black coffee across the table from me. He looks like he just woke (and he did), his big mop of curly hair bulging at the sides framing his pinhole eyes and warm smile. As an artist, he performs, DJs and composes by his middle name, Patås  and he’s one of the central figures in the Dugnåd collective which today constitutes Kjetil Jerve, Erland Albertsen, Fredrik Høyer, Bendik Baksaas, Joar Renolen, Kim Dürbeck, Gabriel and many more that makeup the fringes of their community.

“At the core we’re 7 people,” explains Gabriel, “but the outer core is around 30 people.” There are no designated roles within the collective and the label as “everybody contributes what they can to a common goal,“ and “nobody expects compensation.” It’s an ever expanding community, cooperating with the larger improv and club music community in Oslo. The core constituents take all responsibility for the daily operations between the label and the periphery of the collective, with outsiders often lending a hand on single aspects. Over the course of their existence Gabriel says that they have “grown into designated roles” with Kjetil as the ”driving force and glue,” balancing a life with newborn triplets and Dugnad Rec. 

Kjetil and the other instrumental figures of the Dugnad Rec. society, have entrusted Gabriel to represent them for the interview and he’s eager to relay the central ideologies. An artist with roots in Norway’s Jazz scene, currently making club music he’s contributed the latest record to the Dugnad Rec. catalogue, with four stark atmospheric tracks that float between ambient and Techno across the release. From the subtle plucked strings of ”Siste Dag” to the breathy beat sequences of “Techslo,” two hemispheres in Oslo’s music community between Jazz and Techno converge for a record that connects a thin redline between these two distinct worlds.

Bendik and Kjetil had “been ripping my songs apart for a year” before it was released says Gabriel, wincing through the thought. Although the criticism might seem harsh to the outside viewer, it’s this kind of honesty that has strengthened Dugnad’s resolve in determining the sonic identity of the collective. There’s an “underlying trust in the communication” between them which is “very direct” but efficient as each artist involved benefits from the shared experience of the collective. 

The “evolution in our sound has just skyrocketed” during this second wave of Dugnad Rec. according to Gabriel, “because the feedback loop is so short” between them. “You kind of get the experience of all the people around you as well as your own. This is how we as human beings can grow to our fullest potential, in these small groups of like minded individuals.” As the latest addition to Dugnad, Kim Dürbeck has also had to endure this trial by fire, relinquishing his own artistic identity for the greater good in one of the future releases for the label. “Acceptance is key,” stresses Gabriel as he reflects on an email he had sent that very morning to Kim, unpicking the latest version of some new music from his label co-hort. 

“We don’t try to change the sound,” explains Gabriel, “but we try to perfect that sound so it’s enhanced to its fullest potential.” It means whittling away at the excessive inconsequential elements in a piece of music and cutting everything down that “does not contribute to the main idea.“ In their efforts Dugnad Rec. have cultivated a sound that thrives in a stark minimalism, devoid of some external objective pursuit beyond the act of making music.  

Improvisation is key in all their endeavours and activities and it’s improvisation that constitutes the fundamental essence of the label, regardless of whether their artists are working within the Techno- or Jazz’s parameters. “Rec doesn’t stand for records,” says Gabriel by way of explaining, “it stands for the recording button.” The central idea comes down to recording everything and conditioning the artist to work beyond the recorded format. “If you’re not used to the record button being on,” explains Gabriel pointing to the device currently recording our conversation, “your behaviour changes.” Dugnad Rec. is about “getting used to this feeling” of being recorded to a point where you can completely ignore it and live in the moment of making music.

While this kind of thinking has permeated through Jazz for a long time, it’s something that has only crept up in Techno occasionally. The objective is to set it apart from the popularised form of the music, while conveying the fundamental ideology of the music. It’s at its heart an improvised music with a foot in the technology (music and otherwise) of the future. “I really feel Techno is the Jazz of club music,” proposes Gabriel. “That’s where the experimental stuff is happening and where the boundaries are being pushed.” 

Dugnad Rec. is based on the belief that the person who is willing to explore improvised Jazz is the same kind of person that would appreciate Techno. This is not just some glassy-eyed sentiment on Dugnad Rec’s behalf either, they are actually putting it into practise. They regularly host events around Norway as Dugnad Rec. and their events at Hærverk have become the most concrete realisation of this confluence between these two distinct worlds.

Hærverk’s location between these worlds; a live Jazz venue in the week and a bristling Techno club on the weekend, have assisted in Dugnad Rec. strengthening the connection between these two musical worlds. The “goal is to expose these two scenes that are very apparent in Oslo, and underground” to the other according to Gabriel. Going from live bands to DJ sets and improvised electronic performances, the night “jumps from one to the other,” with artists having “to make a transition” between their opposing music styles. They’ll “have to improvise with each other and this creates a lot of very special moments,” according to Gabriel. 

With many of these new electronic artists coming from a Jazz background like Gabriel they’ve merely transferred their skills to this new domain. “When we switched over to playing machines,” he says “it is only natural for us to continue improvising” and one day they hope to eventually incorporate both these aspects in a truly new fusion of music. “We’re definitely getting there.” 

Besides Gabriel’s own ruminations on his last record, the closest they’ve gotten is Bendik Baksaas and Fredrik Høyer’s collaboration on “Til Alt Ute.” While the record failed to garner much by the way of critical success according to Gabriel it was a breakthrough record for the label, in every other respect, specifically the awareness that it cultivated for people that “really love records.”  “I guess it didn’t really speak to any trend that was apparent,” considers Gabriel about the lack of press on the record, but the fact that they packed out Blå for the official release, speaks for itself.

If you take away Høyer’s vocal, “Til Alt Ute” is little more than a Tech-House record, but it’s in the amalgamation that the charm of that record lies. It’s not merely an extemporised  conversation between man and machine, but also between two very different factions of the artistic community in Oslo. While the record certainly had an impact on the label’s prominence, Gabriel believes “Dugnad’s breakthrough has been a slow thing” with small elements contributing to the larger picture. With “everybody being so active as they are and always pointing back to the community,” it’s raised their profile and “made (the collective) grow in both the jazz world and the club world. “

Oslo has facilitated this growth with its “long tradition in free improv” and “vibrant club scene,” but ultimately it’s up to those very defined parameters that makeup the collective’s ideologies.  “Limitation is liberation” says Gabriel echoing Bendik Baksaas in an interview from last year with this blog, and between, the convergence of musical styles, the freedom of expression in improvisation, the shared experience and the permissive attitudes, Dugnad Rec are making a serious mark on Norway’s music scene. 

The Norwegian word “dugnadsånd” is translatable to the spirit of will to work together for a better community. 

Jeff Mills – An unwavering original

“Now electronic music is primarily made by a certain type of people,” Jeff Mills told French Radio station 24 in a candid interview last year; “typically middle class that probably have a pretty comfortable lifestyle.” 

It is this suburban bourgeoisie that has facilitated Techno’s incremental rise to popularity over the course of the last decade with Berlin playing host to a new generation of artists and enthusiasts, dressed in black playing and listening to a kitsch assemblage of Techno non-sequiturs, largely designed to exploit the popularity of the genre today. 

It’s the result of a culture of distillation, stretching back to the gestation of the genre and particularly advancing over the course of the last decade to where it’s completely eaten away the original eccentricities of the genre. Techno today constitutes little more than a percussive loop and a brooding atmosphere, gathering on the resonant frequencies of the percussion.

Self-proclaimed “underground” DJs and producers have watered down the music to an indistinguishable trope as the Muzak of the dance floor in 2020, leaving the door wide open for hackneyed appropriations. Today, Techno thrives in a kind of honorary superficiality as it’s inducted into popular culture where the suburban masses are commodifying it on a perfunctory level.

In this era, two distinct strains of the genre emerge, with the sub-cultural origins of the genre retreating back into the shadows, back underground, where  Jeff Mills still represents the genre and its original principles.

 

The invention

Techno has begged, stolen and borrowed to get to where it is today. It follows several different  narrative threads, open to all kinds of revisionist plotlines, and you can unpick it at any point, it will completely dissolve in your own biased social perspective every time. Positioning the gestation of Techno at the end of the 1980’s in Detroit with Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May, collectively known as the Belleville 3, is the most accepted origins of this story, but it comes with its own issues. Significant figures like the enigmatic Eddie Fowlkes are all but written out of this narrative; Germany’s initial involvement is erased; and most problematic is that it doesn’t figure Jeff Mills into the first wave of Detroit Techno artists exactly.

Even in Frank Broughton and Bill Brewster’s thorough compendium of DJ culture “Last night a DJ saved my life,” they couldn’t quite place the assent of the DJ and producer within the rhetoric of the Belleville 3, so he just appears like an apparition on the radio, independent of what was happening in Bellville. While it’s appropriate for the lore of the enigma, Jeff Mills has always cultivated, it unduly writes off his role in the extensive origins of Techno. 

Frank Broughton would later set the record straight in the collected interviews for the “Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries.” While Atkins, Saunderson and May were doing their thing in the suburbs (let’s not forget) Mills was pursuing a similar strain of music on his own in the city of Detroit. 

Growing up in the urban sprawl of the city where heavy industrial machines and brawny V8 engines would paint the sonic milieu of the city by day, at night, a very young Mills would be glued to the radio.“It was a source of music that everyone depended on: on your transistor radio, in your car, on your home stereo,” recalls Mills in an interview with the Fabric blog. “What radio is like,” he continues is “what a trip to the moon is supposed to be like, what the lunar surface is supposed to be like.” It was a distant world, mesmerising and alluring to an inquisitive mind like Mills’. 

The only real common thread between Mills and his contemporaries in Belleville at this point was a radio DJ called Electrifying Mojo. The “little man with a big voice” (Derrick May once claimed) had a profound impact on the gestation of Techno, bringing the electronic sounds of the European continent converging around groups like Kraftwerk to the US airwaves in the late 1970s. 

As well as electrifying Mojo, Mills would tune into Chicago’s Hot Mix 5 and make regular trips across Lake Michigan to his midwestern neighbour city to buy records when he was still a teenager. He naturally gravitated to DJing from the radio, with the likes Grandmaster Flash and Jazzy Jeff inspiring an early interest, which he quickly turned into a commanding talent.

He started Djing at high school parties, before falling in with his brother’s DJ crew. From there he rose swiftly through their ranks and by 1980 he had his own residencies around town, playing all night long in clubs that he was barely old enough to patronise. The crowd was young and eager, but Mills always remained at the cutting edge of new music, and by the time Juan Atkins’ first musical project Cybotron arrived, he was playing it alongside new music from the B-52s and Pink Poodles too.

In 1982 he was plucked from relative obscurity to the radio when an impromptu recording session captured his unique skill as a DJ, and the Wizard was born, an anonymous radio personality that would command the local airwaves with an exciting blend of new electronic music.  

Techno as a genre had yet to be invented by 1981, but in Cybotron’s music Atkins and Richard Davis had laid the foundation for the genre to emerge out of Detroit. Their music wasn’t exactly groundbreaking at first, amounting to little more than a pastiche of Kraftwerk’s sound at that time, but there was something unique bristling through on a track like “Cosmic Raindance,” where you can hear the first strains of what would become a repetitive electronic dance music.

Whereas Kraftwerk were traditionally trained musicians, wrestling with high-brow concepts in their music, artists like Cybotron were musical dilettantes playing with machines like toys trying to make electronic pop records. On “Cosmic Raindance” the classic music structures of Kratwerk disappear as improvised keyboards hover around a tonic with an unwavering 808 groove and bitonal bass line staying the course as the rhythm section. That kind of extemporised  “jam” is more Motown than avant garde German post-rock, encouraging that association with the soul of Detroit that has become something of a key distinction to set artists like Cybotron apart from its European counterparts. 

But who invented Techno? “When did you first hear the word Techno,” asked Broughton in DJ Revolutionaries. “Probably in ‘Musique Non Stop,’ by Karftwerk,” replied Mills. That record from 1986 actually appears a bit late in the etymology of the word, or more accurately, the abbreviation of the word Technology. In 1984 there was already a “Technoclub” in Frankfurt, coined by Talla2XLC, who would be playing musical styles like new beat, industrial and synthwave at Dorian Gray under the all-encompassing banner for the first time. That very same year Cybotron would release a record called “Techno City” too, although the synth-pop sound of that record is a far cry from the more industrialised sounds they were listening to at Talla’s parties, where the likes of Nitzer Ebb were staking their claim.

While it was Virgin records that first attributed the word Techno to a genre of music in 1988 with their compilation, “Techno, the new Dance music from Detroit!,” it was a word in common parlance, used to describe anything electronic or futuristic at that time.

Techno as a music existed way before anybody started calling it that, and it was Europe informing Detroit, before Detroit evolved it into the next phase. And like Kraftwerk’s undeniable influence over Cybotron, acts like Nitzer Ebb would inform Jeff Mills’ first steps into production. 

Radio and specifically Electrifying Mojo, was exposing a young Jeff Mills to all these sounds, which he would take into his own radio show. Because of Detroit’s industrial history, its people “adopted a more progressive way of thinking” according to Mills in DJ Revolutionaries. That kind of thinking was handed down through the generations and influenced a very broad intellectual horizon in his opinion. Mills’ own family came from the north and the south to work at automobile factories in Detroit and “like many other black people, they discovered a whole new world, that was futuristic,” which nurtured an inquisitive nature in their progeny that always looked  “beyond the boundaries of Detroit” according to Mills. 

While his peers from Belleville were looking to Kraftwerk, Mills was looking to groups like Nitzer Ebb and Front 242 as well as Kraftwerk, and while playing on the radio between 1982 and 1989 he was developing his own sound as an artist and producer in what would become the prototype for all Techno to follow.

It started with the Wizard, programming simple beats on machines as a way to stand out from other radio stations. He would segue records from three decks into the machines and back again, interspliced with sonic effects played back from tape, creating a bold and dynamic sonic collage that has remained the ultimate allure of his work as a DJ to this day. 

Developing  those arcane sequences from his drum machines and synths into original material, Jeff Mills founded a group called Final Cut with Anthony Srock, which took its cues from the industrial sounds happening in Europe and Detroit simultaneously by that time, influenced by the likes of Nitzer Ebb, but negating vocalists and pop arrangements for a pure machine music. Final Cut’s first record, the “Bass has Landed” is the archetype for most Techno today, even though it started out life as a House a track.

While many consider “Strings of Life” by Derrick May (Rhythim is Rhythim) as the precursor to Techno, Final Cut’s minimalist approach, where the track constitutes little more than a drum machine, will probably be more recognisable to dance floors today. May’s opaque arrangement between piano and synthesised strings, playing in combatant keys sounds puerile against what would constitute Techno, whereas Final Cut’s debut could stake its claim amongst any new record in a 2020 DJ set in the right hands. 

Mills only recorded two records with Final Cut, leaving the group when they started pursuing the industrial aesthetic in accordance to European trends. By the time Mills retired the heretofore anonymous Wizard alias, Techno in Detroit had emerged as its own independent sound, developing on its own as the genre stepped into its next phase with a second wave of artists and producers, in part spearheaded by Mills. 

 

The Emancipation 

While the debate rages on over the origins of Techno, there is absolutely no denying that by 1990 it was the domain of Detroit and a faction of DJs and producers including Jeff Mills, who weren’t merely creating a new form of music, but were consolidating an entire ideology around this abstract electronic music.

Detroit in the 1980’s was a hopeless landscape for a bunch black kids immersed in science fiction and drum machines. Kevin Saunderson once said that there were only two options for black kids growing up in Detroit and that was the army or prison. While Saunderson chose the army, the ones that remained avoided jail by making music. With no help from the American government, who had continued (and continues) to enslave its black population through the prison complex, people like Mills, turned to music to emancipate themselves from the system.

He found a kindred spirit in Mike Banks and together they formed the Techno collective, Underground Resistance. “Planets and stars and futurism and time travel — these types of visions aren’t supposed to come from black guys from Detroit,” Jeff Mills has often said in interviews, but it’s exactly these things that brought he and Banks together and enlisted Robert Hood as the original trinity that inducted the UR collective.

UR was more than just label releasing beat music. It was a way of life for all the artists involved and a platform to get out from under the commercial machine that constituted the dominantly white male record industry and take the power into their own hands. Feigning individual artistic identities for the sake of the collective, there was clearly a political agenda at the heart of their pursuits, but what that was, and remains completely open to interpretation.

That’s the appeal of Techno for many. This abstract form of music is all but completely devoid of any literal meaning. A vocal snippet, ripped out of context or an obscure track title relays little information or direction from the artist, so as a listener you always get what you put into the music. And UR exploited that, turning all the focus on the music, and making their impact more profound. Many labels and artists have since blatantly imitated this model, with mixed results, but UR remains unique in the initial diligence of their pursuit and what they established for all those institutions that followed in their wake.

Although Jeff Mills’ tenure at UR was short lived (only two years), that sense of agency that UR established for artists of their ilk, remained at the core of what he’s pursued as an artist, DJ and label owner ever since. “My hope is that the listener gives up on the idea of trying to recognise anything or relate it to something they know,” he told Fabric in a recent interview. There is a kind of freedom that Mills instills in the listener through his music, but when he is talking “about being free, it is not just music,” he explained in the France 24 interview “but in your thinking.” 

The idea of cognitive freedom is something that has suffused black American music since time immemorial. Cultural appropriation is nothing new, and even as early as Jazz music’s origins, a musical elite (largely white males) have been trying to co-opt any black musical tradition into the larger universal western narrative. Since the days of Will Marion Cook and just after the civil war, there had always been vocal dissent in black American musicians about their music being co-opted into the classical western canon. Merely exploited for their exotic charm, this narrative would deny black American artists their own culture where they controlled the parameters of the music and its legacy.

With figures like Cook and Duke Ellington publicly expressing their disdain and on the merits of their artistry, Jazz and Blues had managed to disentangle itself almost completely from the western canon, but Techno would not be so lucky. 

In an interview with Carl Craig last year, the producer and DJ mentioned that Derrick May stopped making music in the 1990’s, because he had become agitated by people in Europe frequently and blatantly copying his style. Even while the version of Techno, made popular in Europe through the more industrial inclinations, had started to inform its own strains of music including EBM and in some way Trance, it seems that what was happening in Detroit was also informing European trends, where new artists were imitating what was happening stateside, quite often resulting in bland, watered down versions of the same music. 

In an effort to buck these trends, Mills and his co-conspirators sought new realms in Techno, often encouraged by some conceptual thought and/or musical experiment. While the rest of the world was packing in warehouses with big sound systems playing House music to people in their thousands enraptured in ecstasy, Jeff Mills was making a deep, conceptual record with Robert Hood as X-103. “The world was raving, why would we make an album about Atlantis” he mused in a Wire interview and while it might not have made sense at the time from a commercial perspective, it certainly exposed a depth that few ventured beyond in Techno.

Although the LP was released on Tresor in 1993, the “Thera” EP that preceded it came via Mills’ newly established Axis records label. Unlike his debut record, “Waveforms Transmissions” which played to the militant intensity of the German dance floor, “Atlantis” and especially “Thera” played to Mills’ more experimental inclinations. The lead single is essentially an ambient piece, with a rich harmonic texture developing around a singular drone, and dissipating in staccato releases of atmosphere.

While in “Waveform Transmissions” you can clearly hear those first faint echoes of what would eventually become the sound of Techno in Europe today, “Atlantis” seems to expound more on the soulful traditions that had informed Detroit in the sixties and onwards. Lush, synthetic strings, defined melodic movements and dynamic beat constructions, distinguished it from its eastern successors, while the theme behind the music asserted Techno beyond the mere corporeal into the cognitive, a philosophy that Jeff Mills continues to pursue today in all his endeavours. 

Later Drexciya would take this idea even further with the nautical, afrofuturist theme, based on a black atlantis populated by the children of slaves. Using what they learned from Underground Resistance (Drexciya’s James Stinson started out in UR) they too emancipated their work from the increasingly indoctrinated version of Techno that was laying claim to dance floors around the world. This was tactical in distinguishing the Detroit faction of Techno from the increasingly popular form of the genre, which was infiltrating mass culture steadily, throughout the 1990’s. It’s in this spirit that Mike Banks still refers to the genre as High-Tech Jazz, to liberate any associations with this other vapid interpretation of the term Techno, which has largely commodified the term. 

 

The eternal  innovator 

“There were times earlier in my career when partying, entertaining the ladies and making a lot of money were my top three goals!” Jeff Mills told the Monument in an interview last year. “But like anyone that cares about something, in time one’s craft and art form require more attention and focus. For me, this difference happened around 1995.” 

The mid nineties had been definitive time for Techno too. Robert Hood had released Minimal Nation on Mills’ Axis records, creating a new branch of Techno in its wake (which would again be adopted and distilled down to a perfunctory music in the mid 2000’s). Jeff Mills released the hugely influential “Bells” and alongside artists like Carl Craig and Kenny Larkin, he also constituted the second wave of artists, producers and DJs from Detroit, strengthening the resolve of their predecessors’ music as the rightful pretenders to the throne. Even while Jeff Mills was there from the onset, the most significant contribution came during this era, as he established the genre beyond the confines of a sweaty dance floor. 

Techno as art had hardly been a notion before Jeff Mills posited it to the world as such. He realised early on “the genre could contain more than just dancing” he said in an Electronic beats interview and that it could relay “a certain subject to certain people.” 

While “Atlantis” was an early effort, Purpose Maker was certainly about redefining the genre with a multimedia project incorporating film, performance and music. Essentially pre-dating Boiler Room by 20 years, the Purpose Maker video was a DJ set captured on film as performance for the first time. As well as introducing the world to Octave One, it played a significant part in established DJing as an artform too with Jeff Mills giving his audience and intimate look up the Wizard’s sleeve. 

Focussing, quite literally, on Mills’ technique, closeups on the decks revealed the artist manipulating three decks at the same time, lifting the shroud on his unique practises for the first time. While most Techno DJs at that time were manipulating two records in some seamless segue between tracks in one uninterrupted musical journey, Mills was expounding on it by essentially creating completely new compositions in an improvised manner. The idea of DJing as an art form is essentially born. 

Jeff Mills had been a DJ innovator from the very beginning on radio, and while even some of his Detroit peers still struggle with the practise he had mastered something unique in his abilities. In the age of CDJs (CD players emulating record players, made for DJs) it’s not uncommon to find DJs using up to five players simultaneously, but when all they had were vinyl and record players Jeff Mills (and Carl Cox of course) stood apart. When he eventually moved over to CDJs in the 2000’s he would start incorporating a drum machine, in that ceaseless sense of curiosity and experimentation that underlines all his work. 

“My interaction and application of always using a Roland TR-909 drum machine in a more hands on way” he explained in Monument, “is an example about how I’m trying to regain some of the human-ness back into my DJ sets.”

Even as a DJ, the idea of “Techno as loops for dance music” never quite sat well with Mills. His experience with that kind of narrow approach in Techno has been “very negative… For many many years“ he told Wired. “Not just with my peers but also in the press.” His views expanding the dimensions were “being totally ignored” for the longest time and even by time the millennial bell rang in and he signalled his intentions for the turn of the next decade by soundtracking Fritz Lang’s silent film Metropolis, his efforts still went purposefully unnoticed. It didn’t quite fit the devil-may-care hedonistic approach of the dance floor where superstar DJs were asking exorbitant fees to play mind-numbingly formulaic pieces for an increasingly disengaged audience. 

While Jeff Mills was trying to revolutionise the genre, it dug its heels in even further in the first wave of popularity that sought to codify the genre in recognisable tropes for these numbed hedonists. Many of Techno’s architects abandoned ship, seeking refuge in everything from Drum n Bass to Post-punk music, but even during this time, Jeff Mills remained an unwavering presence with a resolute philosophy in expanding the collective consciousness of the genre. He would release some stunning records like the conceptual album “Time Machine,” as his music moved further into the abstract realm, perhaps even too abstract for the new Techno elite that were only just cottoning on to his early work like “Waveform Transmissions.” 

During this time he made the “Exhibitionist,” a follow up to the Purpose Maker – after the advent of CDJs and incorporating a drum machine in his Dj sets – while unilaterally exploring the absolute limits of the music, extending his experiments into film too with concepts like “Three Ages.”

By the time people started flocking back to Techno through the thunderous sounds of Berlin at the turn of the first decade of this century, Jeff Mills was still there, he never left, and still constituted the determinable ideologies of the genre. With Techno’s profile rising however, Jeff Mills’ profile rose too naturally, and today with the recent re-issue of “The Bells” some nearly twenty five years on from its creation, he is possibly the most referenced artist out there today, but his hesitation at the popularity from the start of this piece is warranted even more today. Those certain types from the suburb, have effectively exploited the origins for some kind of gain (whether for money or profile), effectively white-washing the original principles of what Mills and his Detroit cohorts set out to create at the beginning. 

It’s why Jeff Mills is still such a significant figure in Techno at the age 56, because even at Techno’s heightened popularity, there are very few artists pursuing a unique voice in the genre like he still is. Everybody seems to be playing to the common denominator, making bridge and tunnel journeys into the city’s clubs for simple escapist pleasures.

As Techno’s popularity continues to grow, it’s reached a point where everything we experience as Techno is just some bland version of what Jeff Mills has done at some previous point in his career. Whether its referencing Waveform Transmissions, the Bells or utilising four decks in a DJ mix, everything in Techno today can be distilled down to its archetype, Jeff Mills. And yet, when it’s Jeff Mills pursuing these things, it still manages to set a tone apart from the mainstream. Jeff Mills remains the original. 

 

From Arla to Bromley – Profile on Overmono

Ed Russell was 8 years old when he started eavesdropping on his older brother, Tom mixing records in the room next door. At 18 Tom had gotten his first set of decks, and although Ed can’t really infer what kind of impression it made on him today, by the time he was 11 and set out on his own path with a set of decks, he was regularly “pinching” records from Tom’s room, according to an interview with the Quietus.  

Tom had started making music and DJing as Truss while Ed was still coming of age and honing his nascent skills between DJing and production. As Truss, the older brother played sets and released music that focussed on the darker shades of Techno, infused with elements lifted from UK dance music- and sound system culture. With Perc Trax as a vehicle for his music, he made a significant impression as part of a wave of artists pursuing Techno in the UK capital after Dubstep’s descent.

Records like “Kymin Lea” and his collaborations with Perc, had brought an abstract era of Techno to the dance floor, punctuated by militant drum machine arrangements and suffused with experimental sonic designs that went beyond the functional.

Artists like Truss and Perc facilitated an era in the UK’s clubbing community that ultimately provided a platform for a whole post-Dubstep generation to come through and develop unique strains of music. Infused with a heady mixture of UK rave culture, whilst drawing on influences from Berlin, Chicago and Detroit, this next phase was fertile environment for a new burgeoning eclecticism. It’s in this scene that younger brother Ed would make his debut as Tessela with the much hyped and still magnificent, “Hackney Parrot.” 

“Hackney Parrot” would be the first time that Ed and Tom would work together (although indirectly), with their joint venture and label, Poly Kicks expediting the release of the debut record. “I’ve never been one for subtlety really,” Ed told Resident Advisor at the time of Hackney Parrot’s release, and the record honours that sentiment with a screaming, chopped vocal undulating between the raucous, bass-heavy breakbeat arrangement. With later records on the likes of R&S,  Tessela established a unique sound that flirted with Techno, while retaining those expressive UK rave influences that he had picked up from his brother’s records. 

While they had been working in close proximity to each other, it hadn’t occurred to the brothers to combine their efforts yet. Besides an isolated release as TR/ER in 2012 for the aptly-named Brothers imprint, they stuck to their own worlds. “We never actually meant for TR\ER to be a thing” explained Ed in an interview with De School. It was a lone incident for them and it didn’t establish anything that would eventually inform their sound together as Overmono.

The idea for Overmono and serious collaboration would only really come much later. “We were driving down to our Mum’s one evening,” Ed Russell told the Quietus ”and it suddenly just hit us that we should start properly making music together.” While they’ve never confirmed what encouraged this epiphany (or what music might have been playing in the car at that time) what followed was a five-day writing session in a cottage away from the distractions of city life in London.

Before the writing session, Tom had received a box of unwanted records from a brother in law, and while it was largely inconsequential records, one box had contained “loads of amazing early Detroit stuff like Underground Resistance and Transmat records,” encouraging the older sibling to “take the lot.” From this they sampled what they could, building “a big library of sounds we thought were interesting, and that was almost the start of Overmono.” 

Processing the samples beyond recognition, Ed and Tom laid the foundation for what would become the first in a series of three records for XL Recordings called “Arla.” “There was a tinge of nostalgia to the Arla series of records,” Tom told De School. “Those three records were very personal to us in trying to establish a blueprint of our references and define what Overmono is about.” Creating that blueprint from those early Detroit influences, Overmono is built on a foundation of Techno, while channeling everything from those pivotal UK influences to trance into their music in an abstract collage of the history of dance music. “I guess we don’t specifically see Overmono as a solely techno-focused project” Tom explained in the Quietus, and while Ed considers Tessela as “something that definitely folded into Overmono,” they’ve severed any ties with their solo aliases in Overmono. It merely came down to the box of records.

While they established something individual in their solo projects, “Overmono offers us the chance to be much more expansive in our productions,” Ed told De School. Pursuing melody rather than function, the duo set out to create music that although more abstract, could live beyond the dance floor and the 12” through the Arla series of records for XL. It’s only during their fourth EP, Whities 019 that they would emerge with a sound that would define their more recent records for the likes of Poly Kicks, which brought their sound further to the middle of the dance floor again. 

While Arla was based around samples, from Whities 019 forward they were creating their own unique and individual melodic pieces. “We both love a bit of trance,” Tom told the Quietus, somewhat predictively in strains of music that could be heard through their more recent records like the self-titled EP from this last November. Between buoyant melodies and percussive rhythms that ricochet between quaver notes and broken beat samples, Overmono has defined a sound over the last three records that has found some synchronicity with current dance floor trends, without pandering to them. 

Records like “Raft Living” infuse this stark melodic element with the roots of UK rave culture, where blistering beat arrangements envelope everything else in that very same lack of subtlety that defined Ed’s work as Tessela. 

What sets Overmono’s music apart is their ability to bring this sound beyond the recorded format to the live stage. With a visceral approach to their machines, their “music is defined by the kit that we use” according to Ed in a Resident Advisor feature. That translates to a live situation too with a “more cohesive set” emerging as the pair unpack their music with their machines leading them down a path to a “middleground between freedom and improvisation.” 

Between making records, their individual output, and playing live, they also managed to find time to collaborate with Joy O, in one of the biggest tracks on the dance floor during 2019, ”Bromley.” It emerged closer to those UK Rave influences, with a perfunctory percussive arrangement, where minimal is key and every element needs to count, bearing closer resemblance to a track “Daisy Chain,” than the more recent “Le Tigre.” 

As Joy O’s music is want to do, there was an incredible hype surrounding the track, and with good reason, and while Overmono had already garnered a lot of attention for their music and live show, it has only gone to cement Overmono as a tour de force on the electronic club music scene of today. From their first records to where they’ve channelled their sound and their live show, they’ve established something unique together as Overmono. 

TBT: Joy Orbison – Hyph Mngo

A faint thewy organ, floats in from the distance, reluctantly filling the stereo field. A mere suggestion of tension accompanies the augmented volume, before the body of sound reveals itself as some distorting imitation of an organ, most likely coaxed from a FM synthesiser. The year is 2009 and the song is “Hyph Mngo” by an unknown artist called Joy Orbison and before it’s even reached the pressing plant, it’s been widely acknowledged as the track of the year, by some of London’s most significant selectors and tastemakers. 

It was a debut release by an unknown artist on an independent label called Hotflush recordings, but it preceded to garner a kind of hype reserved for pop music. Indie magazine Pitchfork called it a “spectacularly well-crafted dubstep song,” singing the track’s praises well in advance of the official release date on more than one feature, while XLR8R quite rightly called Joy Orbison an “artist to watch.” It seemed that every DJ of notable repute in the UK had a copy of this record, tucked away in their arsenal and if they wanted a lethargic dance floor to go off in the summer of 2009, all they had to do was play “Hyph Mngo.”

London in 2009 was an exciting landscape for electronic music. Dubstep had been firmly inducted in the underbelly of the UK capital at places like Plastic People and had started to make waves in the mainstream through artists like Skream and Benga, but a new generation of artists had begun to redefine the parlance almost at the same time. Formed on of the foundations of the extended UK Bass music family (most often UK garage) Dubstep started to incorporate a heady mixture of influences from the extended comos of dance music culture, developing the term beyond its original parameters.

A group of aspiring artists, producers, DJs and enthusiasts, converging in online communities like Dubstepforum and at club concepts like >>FWD started to penetrate the slowly stagnant Dubstep scene. Armed with the knowledge that the internet facilitated, and hugely respectful of the origins of UK’s music subcultures, these artists, DJs and producers would change the face of music in the city and the country to eventually become international pioneers in the booth and the studio that soon leaped beyond dubstep.

Peter O’Grady, who would later take on the name Joy Orbison (in some punchline of an undefined joke) , was one of these people. Growing up in greater London, O’Grady discovered UK dance music from an early age thanks to an influential relative. His uncle is Ray Keith and had been a pivotal figure on the UK’s Drum n Bass scene from its inception, contributing a few seminal moments on the dance floor in the late nineties and early noughties. “I had started to become interested in dance music,” O’Grady told Factmag during a rare interview at the start of his career, “so he would send me his albums and records.” Only 12 years old at the time, these albums arrived to become an obsession, spurred on by an enthusiasm only youth could bring. 

It expedited an entry into DJing, with a set of decks at 13 and between collecting records and honing his craft as a DJ, he was immersing himself completely in the sounds of Jungle, Drum n Bass, and most significantly Garage. “I was just a kid in awe of the culture,” he reminisced in a recent Dazed and Confused interview with Gabriel Szatan. He was eager “to go to record shops and get involved, but never holding any power,” he needed to make an impression first. “Production was always the natural progression” to that next step he told Factmag “but I actually waited quite a while – ’til I was about 18 – before I really gave it a go.”

As the darker hues of UK Garage developed into Grime on the estates of London, O’Grady took first steps into production, “trying to imitate those 8 bar grime tracks” on the predominant  Fruity Loops software. Little more that an ingratiating “hobby” at first, O’Grady’s skills developed as his musical purview grew to include everything from post-rock (he was even in a band at one stage) to classic House, laying the foundation for what become the fusion of styles that would gather round Joy Orbison and his first release “Hyph Mngo.”

“Why is our enthusiasm for Joy Orbison so outsized compared to what we express for his peers?” asked Little White Earbuds a few years later via a review of “Ellipsis.” It’s an interesting question, and the answer still eludes us today. “Hyph Mngo” wasn’t necessarily breaking any molds per se at that time. The two step garage rhythm had become quite pedestrian at that point and it wasn’t the first time producers flirted with classic Garage in the scope of Dubstep either. The year before Skream had released Skreamizm 5 which contained the bubbling “One for the heads who remember” – a track that bore some striking similarities to “Hyph Mngo” in its use of a fractured vocal sample, a two step percussive loop and a lot of emphasis on the sub-bass frequencies.

By 2009 that scene was moving at a staggering rate however with the old guard like Skream (who is only a few years O’Grady’ senior) quickly moving over for the next movement in the UK’s dance music scene. New labels like Hessle Audio were emerging and encouraging a wave of new artists to explore every shadowy enclave of UK dance genres and further afield. It was a very innovative era for the music, and borders were completely broken down, with Dubstep’s ingrained formulas becoming almost immediately passé. 

The lfo (low frequency oscillator) “wobbly” basslines and syncopated rhythms that had defined the genre were now holding it back, as artists, some of whom were active in Dubstep, looked beyond those features in developing the music at a rapid pace. An artist like Joy Orbison signalled the latest in a movement that was always looking to the next, but unlike many tracks that came and disappeared from the XLR8R downloads section, “Hyph Mngo” had the presence to back up the hype. 

Its magnificence is ingrained in the fundamentals of track and its Garage foundations.“I think a lot of my sound comes from UK Garage, producers like Todd Edwards, Zed Bias and Groove Chronicles,” admitted O’Grady in Factmag, and that’s quite significant in the appeal of the record. Instead of relying on what was becoming tired tropes in the world of UK’s dance music, O’Grady proffered an interpretation of the classic UK Garage sounds from a modern perspective. 

Two-step garage rhythms forged in the cold metallic percussive range of Grime, bounce  through thinly splaid house chords. A disembodied vocal sample haunts the progression, only on occasion revealing the lyric “it’s you” while wave after wave of sub-bass anchor the track to its ratcheting beat. 

Elements of House, Garage and Dubstep are all accounted for, but they are unfamiliar, re-contextualized in the confluence. The “wobble” bass line is there too, but completely devoid of the rasping sonorities of its Dubstep origins, it’s been relieved of its cliché. It’s set to the back, where it serves as a harmonic accompaniment rather than taking center stage. The bass line and the curious use of an FM organ synth, sets the tone for a track that floats between distant worlds of House, Grime and Dubstep. 

In a recent interview with the Quietus, O’Grady told the writer: “I think people like to assume you’re quite ignorant when you’re younger, and people maybe thought we were just these kids into jungle and garage and that, but I was interested in lots of styles of music.” That eclectic approach encouraged in some part by a youthful enthusiasm might have played an integral part in how that track turned out in fact, and although unique, it was the machinations behind that track that played the most significant role in the eventual success of “Hyph Mngo.”

It wasn’t exactly anything was well defined as the Dubstep scene that enabled the hype, but with a few key figures shouting its praises in an extensive online community where blogs had surpassed the music press for a while, the popularity of that record, and many more among it, took on a life of its own. O’Grady had tentatively handed a few copies to some DJ friends at first according to the factmag interview, and he was “really unconfident about the reaction” it would get. It went “‘pretty crazy” however and exceeded O’Grady’s expectations by far. 

One DJ, in particular, played a fundamental role in the track’s reception. When Martin Clarke (aka Blackdown) played it for the first time on Rinse FM in the summer of 2009, he claimed in no uncertain terms, that “this tune is massive” and proceeded to proclaim it a “dubstep anthem” in a feature for Pitchfork.  

Between Clarke, the DJs playing the track, and the blogs picking up on it on an almost daily basis, it catapulted the name Joy Orbison into the public psyche for anybody interested in alternative club music. It didn’t take long for that track to live on its own terms however. On the ten-year anniversary of its release, Gabriel Szatan writing in DJ Mag called Hyhp Mngo “a touchstone, firmly fixed in contemporary electronic music’s vernacular and its bloodstream,” and if I could offer even the slightest criticism, it would only be that success of “Hyph Mngo” detracted from the equally brilliant B-side “Wet Look.”

It played some part as a catalyst beyond Dubstep, which other artists and DJs took into Techno and House, and Joy Orbison even further (81B on Hinge finger is a great example) , which continues to fuse and merge with everything from psychedelia to proto House. “I don’t resent that exposure,” he told Factmag about his sudden rise,  “but I’m definitely more excited about what’s to come than what I’ve done so far.”  

With what we know today from releases like “The shrew would have cushioned the blow,” “Big Room Tech House DJ Tool – TIP!”, “Ellipsis” and his recent collaboration with Overmono for “Bromley” those words come as an uncanny reminder from the past.  If I could pose an answer to LWE’s initial question, and with the advantage of hindsight, our enthusiasm for Joy Orbison is the result of his unique ability to surprise around each corner. He makes effective dance music that feigns preconceptions. You never know what to expect from a Joy O track and it’s always a pleasant surprise. 

Raw Soul with Detroit Swindle

House music is a machine-music imbued with soul. This has defined the characteristics and the limitations of the genre for four decades as artists and producers strive to parlay that human touch into a communal experience, coaxed from rigid machines. A sample, a choreographed modulation, a swing in the rhythm or a simple error, bring back House music to its origins. It’s where Funk, Soul and Disco still informs the work and artists like Detroit Swindle thrive in their modern interpretations of this ever-lasting genre. 

Lars Dales and  Maarten Smeets have been making music together as Detroit Swindle since the early part of the last decade. Both successful DJs and producers in their own right, the pair merged as a DJ/production duo when Maarten started playing at the club Lars was programming. Maarten’s underground sensibilities didn’t go down well with upper management however and Lars was forced to fire Maarten. They had started to bond over a shared musical passion at this point however, which developed into some studio time and eventually the start of Detroit Swindle. We don’t know what happened to that club…

As Detroit Swindle they released their first EP on Dirt Crew recordings, channeling those irrevocable Soul influences into the deeper echelons of House music. Gospel vocals and sparkling Rhodes keys streak a path to the dance floor on “Guess What,” establishing a Detroit Swindle sound that has veered little from these prominent roots up to today and their last release for AUS music “Rhythm Girl Swing.” Incorporating some elements of UK Garage and Disco in this latest release, the foundations of their work remain unchanged with an analogue warmth enveloping their sound.

Between releases for Dirt Crew and AUS, they’ve developed their own Heist imprint, providing a platform for others to extend the Detroit Swindle sound into new musical universes. Between their own EPs, running the label, playing live and DJing they’ve also released two LPs, which saw them re-imagine the sound outside of the club. From “Boxed Out” to “High Life” they’ve extended the Detroit Swindle sonic palette and with the assistance of some key collaborators on “High Life,” they created one of 2018’s most captivating House music LPs. 

All through this Detroit Swindle have remained steadfast in their sonic approach and true to the original themes of House music that brought them together. Whether they’re distilling it into original music, performing live or DJing, Lars and Maarten have found a unique voice on the musical landscape.

Detroit Swindle play our basement at Frædag next week

I’ve heard the story about the circumstances that brought you together to lay the foundation of Detroit Swindle. But Lars, did you end up firing Maarten from the club, like your boss asked?

Lars: Well, Maarten had the choice to either change what he was playing, or stop playing at the club. He chose to stick with the music he liked playing and I think he didn’t really mind not playing there anymore. It was a shame though, since all the bar staff and the regulars really liked to hear the music he played.  

What happened directly after in terms of the club and both your positions there?

Maarten: I’m not sure if the place still exists, but if it does, it probably isn’t the type of bar I’d go to for a drink. I was fine not playing there anymore and Lars quit his job as a programmer quite soon after to have more time in the studio together with me, which ended up being quite a good choice for the both of us. 

So all’s well that ends well. What was the music that you bonded over in the beginning that cemented what you would eventually do as Detroit Swindle?

Lars: It was mostly soul, funk, motown that we both grew up with. We were both also really into old school hiphop and that was really the foundation for our sound. We wanted to add our version of soul to modern day electronic music.

You were both accomplished solo artists/DJs before coming together as Detroit Swindle. How did you experience your individual tastes converging as Detroit Swindle?

Maarten: having had another career and another partnership with its ups and downs really helps in your growth as a person and an artist. We both had worked with someone else before and have learned valuable lessons from it. From a taste-perspective, we both add something that’s really from ourselves to the table. The combination of Lars’ interests and taste together with mine is what makes it click. It’s not always easy as a duo since you’re always creatively dependent on the other, but in the end, it’s a combination that just works really well.  

Did either of you ever feel you had to adapt your approach to music to accommodate the other?

Lars: During DJ sets, you can’t always decide on directions to take. Sometimes, it’s important to follow the idea of the other and that means finding a record to play that connects with the vibe the other is trying to go for rather than going for something different. Dj’ing in a duo is in a sense always about accommodating to each other’s ideas. And that’s how cool new things can emerge with combinations you’ve never thought of before. 

When we’re producing, there’s a golden rule that we both must really stand behind the track that we’re making. Whether it’s a b2 for an ep, or a big remix, we only release it when we’re both happy. That means that sometimes you have to make compromises to create something that’s really ‘us’.

There’s a lot to unpack in the name Detroit Swindle, but I think the connection with Detroit is an interesting one. There’s always been a tradition of Detroit in the Netherlands, from what the Bunker guys were doing to what the Dekmantel boys were doing at the start. I know you are only able to speak for yourself, but why do you think this relationship with Detroit is so strong in the Netherlands?

Maarten: That’s an interesting question… I guess musically, Holland has always had a big jazz, soul and disco scene with its eyes firmly set on the midwest with record import, festivals, stuff like that. For us, it’s the raw soul and unconventional approach to music in a sense. Whether it’s arrangement, the raw way of recording music, or the loose programming of samples, it’s all so very ‘alive’. That’s probably the biggest reason why it appeals to us so much.

Detroit’s legacy is kind of enshrined in Techno. Has it always been about House music for you, and where do you usually draw the line in your productions and DJ sets in your interpretation of a Detroit sound?

Lars: It was always Hiphop for me actually, with Dilla really being the main inspiration for me for a long time. If I look at our record bag, there will probably always be a Moodymann whitelabel, Omar S. or Underground Resistance record somewhere. That said, there’s so much great music out there and musical inspiration can come from all over the world these days, which is a good thing. It’s just great to be knee deep into soulful electronic music and hearing it pop up all over the world. 

Is the Heist platform just an extension of this sound?

Maarten: Heist is an extension of our sound so you could definitely say it’s an extension of where our inspiration comes from. We’ve had 6 years worth of great releases and in 2020, we’ve got some great diverse music coming up again, so we’re also pushing the sound to new places and drawing new inspiration from that. 

 

What do you look for in artists or music to make it onto the label, and is there any direction, from your part that you’ve always instilled in the artists coming to the label?

Lars: most of all, we look for artists who have their own sound, or at least something identifiable and unique to him / her / them. How well that thing is shaped is not really relevant, but it has to be there. We are really actively involved with the music our artists make and send us and with that, we help them shape their own sound. At the end of the day, we’re just very happy to be the messengers of all these amazing records.  

Over the years and your releases, you’ve stayed very close to the foundations of your sound, but you must constantly be evolving as musicians and artists. How have you experienced your own music evolve over the years?

Maarten: We’ve obviously learned a lot more about production techniques and mixing down, although I would still gladly leave the more technical stuff to real pro’s and stick to writing music myself. We’ve started working way more with analog equipment which really helped us in expanding our sound, understanding synthesis and also, very important, has ensured we still have loads of fun jamming in the studio. Our sound has definitely evolved as well, but I still feel very much connected to the music we made in the first part of our career. Change is a natural thing and we really embrace it with our productions. Moreover, we both really don’t see the point in repeating the same trick over and over, so it’s also in our character to keep on looking for fresh ideas.

I’m thinking about your last release on AUS, Rhythm Girl Swing. I picked up on hints Disco on Vibrations and a little bit of Garage on Wado Bayo. Was that something that you were actively trying to achieve on that record; expanding the repertoire?

Lars: To be honest, not really. We rarely go into the studio with a real plan or direction we want to take things. We just let the vibe of the moment take us wherever it goes. When we put together an EP, we always like to fit in some different styles, types of energy. Wado Baya is quite deep for us but still has that soulful warmth. The disco vibe on Vibrations is something that’s very close to us. We still like to switch it up though, for instance with this track with the more techy stabs, which gives the track a nice edge. 

What did you take away from that EP, that might inform future releases?

Maarten: It had been a while since we released on a label other than Heist, but it was nice to get this EP out there on a great label like Aus. The EP did really well and that felt like a nice encouragement to explore that deeper side of things as well. Funnily enough, the next record we did was a full on house record, so that kinda proves the point we made in the last question. We just go into the studio and see whatever comes out. 

With Techno’s popularity at an all time high at the moment and with House music favouring a kind of lo-fi soundcloud aesthetic, how do you feel you have had to adapt if at all with the current sounds on European dance floors?

Lars: We both have a weak spot for classic techno, so we always bring along a few bangers if we play a late slot or do an allnighter. The lofi house aesthetic is kinda interesting, because it’s a subgenre really focused on sound design, which I really applaud. That said, there’s loads of badly executed good ideas and well executed bad ideas in both genres (and every other genre) so it’s still all about making that right selection when you’re playing. As far as our sound goes, we’ve been playing music from all kinds of genres and love switching it up, no matter what genre is currently getting all the buzz.  

We really loved your last LP, High Life here and still play it in our café. It’s perfect for breaching that space between the cafe concept and what we do at night. How do you approach the LP differently to what you do on EPs and singles?

Maarten: That’s great to hear. Our intention with High Life was to create a soulful electronic album with a lot of live elements. When we made it, we took 3 weeks off of touring, which we normally never do. During those 3 weeks, we had guest musicians come over, locked ourselves up in the studio and lived the music, closing ourselves off for all external influences. During the process, we also have let go of the idea of creating music for clubs and just went into jams with an open mind. It’s with that mindset, along with the fact that we had no real pressure on, that we were able to write that album. The process for us when we’re writing music for an EP is different, but also really fun. It’s a more lightweight approach, where you get to put music together you’ve written in the studio, in an airplane, waiting for a pickup, or wherever. It’s also nice to write music without any time constraints, which makes it possible to let something sit for a while and you get to think about the direction you want to take the track, think about possible collabs you could do, etc. Both processes are really nice to go through and the variety in output makes it really worthwhile to work on EP’s now and plan for a new album in the future. 

 

There were a lot of collaborations on that LP compared to Boxed Out. What encouraged these collaborations and how did it affect the sound of the LP as a whole?

Lars: Our good friend and live collaborator Lorenz Rhode was there for quite a while to write keys for a lot of the tracks, which was great. We did a studio session with him and Tom Misch which ended up being a super special jam session. The recording with Jungle by Night was done in the Amsterdam Red Bull Studios and was amazing as well, having all these super talented guys jam on our track and have fun with each other. For us, these collabs have really made the album more diverse and give it a nice live touch. The combination of programmed electronics, sequenced synths, drums and samples and those unquantized live recordings give the whole album a real special feel that makes the album more than a dance album, but more a  journey through our view on electronic music.

You’ve toured the album for a bit, playing live, but you’re coming to Jaeger to play a DJ set. What’s the correlation between live, the label and DJing for you that makes it a distinctly Detroit Swindle experience?

Maarten: The live show is pretty much all original DS tracks and during our DJ sets, we try and play all different kinds of music. We play a lot of unreleased Heist tracks in our Dj sets and I guess all the music we play, whether it’s live or DJ, have a role in our the Sonic space of the DS sound. The live show has a certain energy with all the equipment and keyboards, all the live playing, a lights show, etc. It’s more of a show than when we’re DJ’ing. While DJ’ing, we really get to connect with the crowd, and in the interaction, we try to get a feel for the musical direction to take. In a way, the label, the DJ shows and the live shows are different ways for us to express our view on music and together, they form a really solid basis for the Detroit Swindle sound.

And what  should people expect from your upcoming set at Jaeger?

Lars: It’s been quite a while since we were at Jaeger and last time we played the courtyard, so we’re super excited to play here again. Usually when preparing a set, we go through the latest promo’s, get the latest tracks on Heist on the USB and check if there’s a new DS track to try out before we send it off for mastering. There’s always a nice combination of old and new music, as well as a trip through various styles. I couldn’t tell you now what we’ll play, but there’ll definitely be some unreleased tracks in there, as well as a few really nice records we got at a recent shopping spree. 

Influences: Beyond the arctic circle with Charlotte Bendiks

In the 1990s, music in Norway had largely been the claim of a small University town just beyond the arctic circle. Uncompromising figures like Bjørn Torske, Per Martinsen, Rune Lindbæk, Ole Mjøs and Geir Jenssen had found an affinity for machine music, that had put them and Tromsø on the map and paved a way for a whole lineage of artists that arrived after them.

There was no universal sound or even genre underpinning these individual artists or their music. The glacial ambience of Jenssen‘s Biosphere; the ecclastical highs of Torske, Linbæk and Mjøs’ Volcano; and the futurist machine rhythms of Martinsen’s Mental Overdrive stimulated nothing of a scene and yet there was something distinctive in the music that every artist brought to their individual musical destinations. 

Even though most of those original torchbearers have moved away from the region, Tromsø’s legacy is enshrined in those pioneers’ early accomplishments, with younger artists like Charlotte Bendiks imbibing that same  legacy for this generation and the next. Charlotte Bendiks has been a pivotal figure in the modern history of Tromsø and Norway’s electronic music scene with records on Per Martinsen’s Love OD label, Correspondant and Cómeme. A DJ, live artist and producer, her music has reached a global audience, and has found a fair few influential record bags. 

Last year’s “Hjemme Erotic” on Matthew Herbert’s Accidental Jnr. label, found Bendiks harnessing familiar traits in her own music, with polyrhythmic percussion and minimalist arrangements defining her sound as an artist. In the title track, Bendiks yet again reflects on home (hjemme) in literal terms, but with a breathy vocal and a drum machine evoking some intangible tribe, it also traces a faint lineage towards the earliest musical traditions from the region.

Like a post-modern nod to Joik, “Hjemme Erotic” continues to permeate with the sounds and atmosphere of Charlotte Bendiks’ roots. It lends that distinctive charm that has informed much of the music of the region, but it’s still an elusive appeal that remains largely undefined in Bendiks’ music and her influences from the region. Here she uncovers some of those influences ahead of her next  appearance at Jaeger for her IRONI residency. 

 

Kolar Goi – Audio Krill 

Kolar Goi, Aedena Cycle, Dr Gaute Barlindhaug – the man, the myth, the legend! One of the key figures in the Tromsø music scene is this guy,  as a producer, festival organizer for Insomnia festival and teaching music production for the university. Audio Krill sums up everything good about Gaute for me, and it is one of my all time favorite arctic tracks.

There’s quite an experimental element to this track. Is that something that you’re naturally drawn to in music, something unusual?

Yes, everything that stands out as different is interesting to me. Something with its own personality. 

I’ve always found a coldness in the music from the area. That’s obviously subjective, but the environment must have some effect on the music that’s made there. How do you think it’s informed your listening habits and the music you make?

That is very hard to answer. In my experience the same musical element that some people find cold, others find warm. The cold dark weather outside might influence the amount of hours you spend inside a warm studio in the winter, and that affects your musical output…

Beatservice, like Gaute has been a pillar of the Dance music community in Tromsø. What kind of influence do you think that sense of community has on the music from the region?

Tromsø is a very small city and the community of underground music is even smaller, so I think every person that takes part has shaped the music scene in a much bigger way than they know themselves.

 

Mental Overdrive – Diskodans

This genius of a track goes beyond genres and styles and stands out in it’s own way. I also love how Per used a vocal sample of a famous finish disco dancer and teacher Åke Blomqvist. It’s really the cherry on top for me, and what brings the quirky nordic vibe to the track. 

Per is such a versatile and prolific artist. Is this something that you try to emulate in your music?

I wanna be – I wanna be like PER!

Why do you think that “quirky nordic vibe” is so important in electronic music, not just from Tromsø, but the rest of Norway too?

I am not sure if I would say it is important in nordic music, but it is an important part of the northern Norwegian culture. It is also a big part of northern Norwegian storytelling traditions, and I find that this (dark) humour in music can motivate to take risks, stand out and dare to be different.

Per moved back to Tromsø a while back and it’s a small city where you’re bound to bump into figures like that regularly. Is there a healthy artistic exchange between this old guard and some of the new artists coming through, because of that?

That of course depends on each and every individual, some are more open for communication than others. Of course, it helps that it is a small and tight knit community. It is easy to know someone who knows someone, and that makes all the creative people in the north connect. The music scene is well connected to the film-, theatre- and art scene as well. There are a lot of collaborations across various expressions.

 

Nikkeby Lufthavn – To the moon

Nikkeby Lufthavn is my favorite rock band of all time. I discovered them when I was a punk-interested teenager, and to me Nikkeby Lufthavn is Tromsø’s best kept secret. I love the lyrics in To the Moon!

What was it that eventually lured you over to the electronic arts?

I don’t think of it like that anymore. Music is music. I discovered punk because I met some people who were in the punk scene, later I met some people who were into Detroit Techno and discovered electronic music via them. So I guess my answer is accessibility. 

How does this kind of music reflect in your own music and DJ sets?

I like the DIY punk attitude a lot. I think you can hear from some of my music that I am more into a “dirty” and “home made” sound than keeping it clean and smooth.

 

Mari Boine & Liu Sola – Maze

Mari Boine is a otherworldly and one of the most powerful artists I know. This track is my all time favorite of hers, I can’t begin to describe it, just listen and feel it!

How did you come across Mari Boine and why is her music so powerful to you?

Mari Boine is a very famous artist in Norway, so I discovered her and her music at a very young age. Her music is very emotional, and her emotions are very powerful.

Those sami roots are obviously strong in the north, but is it something accessible, or do you still have to seek it out to find it? 

Oh lord, where to begin… This is a history lesson of the Norwegian state’s discrimination that I won’t try to take on here. The roots are strong and all over, but a lot was hidden and some is even lost forever.

There’s a primal quality to the drums in that piece, and it’s something that I often pick up on in the rhythms and percussion in your music. Are you more likely to take your cues from a folk tradition like this than say, Techno when it comes to those elements in your tracks?

I like to think of all percussive music as primal or trance music. Repetitive percussive music to me is primal trance music, and I like to think that it has been part of human culture since before electricity was invented. I combine acoustic and electronic percussive sounds, and I don’t think of it as one or the other, it all comes together to make the vibe and groove I want to express. 

Bjørn Torske – Spelunker

Bjørn Torske aka The Codfather. Spelunker is a track I fell head over heels in love with when the Feil Knapp record was released back in 2007. 

All the electronic music music you mention in this list is from around this time. What was it about that era in music that influenced you so much?

These are the tracks I discovered when I started going out to clubs in Tromsø, kind of my introduction to electronic music. Also some of the tracks I started playing when I started “DJ-ing” in bars. They shaped my taste a lot!

That “quirky nordic vibe” is strong here too, like 8 bit dub. Torske has always been a versatile musical figure too. How do you think those elements still inform your tastes as a DJ today?

I like Bjørn Torske a lot because of his musical freedom across different styles and genres. He is the original Codfather and pioneer of Norwegian electronic music. I think without him all the electronic music from Norway would be very very different.

Seminal moments with DJ Spacebear

*DJ Spacebear stands in for DJ Lekkerman at Den Gyldne Sprekk for the month of January.

It’s still early on a Tuesday night and the song “Street Life” is playing on an empty dance floor, waiting for the night to officially start. The upbeat Disco groove, slinking strings and Randy Crawford’s beatific vocals contrast the gritty subject contained in lyrics like; “Prince charming always smiles, behind a silver spoon.” It’s the Crusaders, Lars Moen (DJ Spacebear) informs me, without a beckoning question. “It’s a long track” he tells DJ Kompressorkanonen (Orjan Sletner), who is leaning on his flank with the next record, Lars implying that he would like to hear the song for its entirety.   

Much like the Crusaders song, Lars is something of an enigma. His long, straight hair, tied up in a neat ponytail, an ageless physiognomy and his earnest speech pattern are at odds with the stereotypical image of a DJ today. A loose-fitting, Rush Hour records sweater lends the only clue to his musical passions and if you didn’t see him behind a set of decks, you’d hardly place him there. Yet, he’s been a central figure in House music and Techno in Oslo for the last thirty years, playing records for audiences in their thousands in and around Oslo in the mid nineties, before it fractured and retreated to the underground, where DJ Spacebear continued to be a constant presence in the DJ booth. 

Today he regularly plays places like Hærverk, where he’s shared the booth with legendary underground figures like Terrace and Spin Fidelity, and his sets can go from Deep Ambient Techno to the Disco he’s currently playing through Jaeger’s soundsystem in the lounge.

“I like soul,” says Lars in a bare whisper, “because it has an atmosphere” and lately he’s been enjoying excavating some of those records again in what seems to be an endless pursuit of discovery for the music enthusiast. Recently, he tells me Disco and Soul has led him down a path t to “swing jazz from the thirties and forties,” and even after doing this for nearly thirty years, he’s still finding music he’s never heard before. Through his own 10 000-strong record collection and an unceasing habit of collecting he keeps going “back in time” and still comes across some things “he’s never heard before.” 

The first record

Lars grew up in the suburbs of Oslo listening to a lot of Rock music. “It was a really boring place,” but he seemed to find some solace in music from an early age. He “forced” his father to take him to his first concert in 1988 to see AC/DC, but around the same time he was listening to Kraftwerk and Break Machines. “I was really impressed by Kraftwerk,” he remembers. “We are the robots, is a record I really remember that is important for the introduction to electronic music for me.”

Lars developed the introduction into a hobby and started buying this new music through the cassette medium. He bought Break Machines’ seminal debut on cassette and it’s a record he will still return to, on the various other formats he’s acquired over the years. “I still like it” he says, but if there’s one seminal record that set him on path to DJing it has to be Humanoid’s Stakker. He originally “recorded it from the radio” on a cassette tape, but he “didn’t know what it was,” setting him on a journey to find the first Techno record he ever owned. “It was like zero for me” he recalls. The “crazy breakbeat, acid vocoder Techno” had arrived from space it seemed and while Lars had been familiar with these kinds of themes through Kraftwerk’s music, Humanoid was “more raw and rough” and its lack of identity consolidated music with  another passion for Lars… an interest in space.

Lars “was really into astronomy” and from that moment, he would spend evenings listening to Techno while drawing imagined landscapes from space. At one point he had to make a decision between a telescope and a record player and he chose the record player, taking the first steps to becoming a DJ. He christened his new DJ alias DJ Spacebear to convey  what he thought about this “music from space with the power of a bear.” 

The first DJ set

Lars retreated into his fantasy landscapes and the radio, where he found a wealth of new music that sounded like Humanoid. Radio stations like Radio Nova and their jocks DJ Apple Pie (Christian Grimshei) and DJ Hanza (Hans Erik Hansen) introduced Lars to the world of Techno and House. “These DJs were important to me,” stresses Lars and some of the shows he recorded on cassette back then are still in his possession today. He found “a lot of inspiration from these shows,” but it would remain a largely solitary passion for him through his teenage years. He was “too young” to go to raves and his insular environment found very few kindred spirits on his block. 

Hip Hop had reached the height of its popularity in Norway by then, and these were the only kids that Lars could relate to during that time. “I had five or six friends that were into Hip Hop, so I hung around with these people, but they didn’t like Techno.” He bought his first record player in 1991 and had to wait another year to save up for the second, but would join some of these friends in their basements to play some records. They would often get angry when he played an Underground Resistance record. “No, don’t play Disco…” they would complain before Lars could defend himself proclaiming “this is not Disco, it’s Techno!”

While he “was really alone” in his love of Techno and House at home, in Oslo city a record store owned by Morten Winsnes became a refuge for the aspiring DJ. Winsnes had worked with the likes of radio DJ and hip Hop mainstay, Tommy Tee at Innova Music before establishing his own store and club in the city. Located where the Duo sex shop is today on Møllergata, Morten had stocked the shop with “mostly House and Techno.” Personally, the shop owner “was into the hardstuff ” according to Lars, but he had all the records from Lars’ radio shows with music from Underground Resistance, R&S and Strictly Rhythm lining the shelves. 

Winsnes “imported a lot of good stuff,” and had started to notice the young Lars’ purchases.  The older collector saw something in his younger contemporary, who had still to graduate from bedroom DJ, and snuck the under-aged DJ Spacebear into the booth of his club, CB4,  “the first permanent Techno club in Oslo.”

The first Clubbing experience

“I was never really interested in clubbing,” says Lars. “There was no club culture” in Oslo in Lars’ opinion, but he was undeniably intrigued by the raves that started cropping up around the city, and naturally gravitated to the music they were playing. 

After he played his first gig in 1994, this music and the rave scene would grow exponentially, and DJ Spacebear would become a familiar name appearing on marques around Oslo. At the height of its popularity, Lars would be playing a rave at Oslo Spektrum with 8000 people in attendance, but unlike most of his peers of that generation, Lars refuses to look onto those times with the rose-tinted hue of nostalgia clouding his memories. At that time the scene was “too commercial,” he explains “and I didn’t like it, because you had all these separate rooms.” There’s always been a refinement that appeals to him as a DJ that has only matured since his beginnings, when “everything was a mess.” It  was an “exciting mess” nonetheless, and it was through this sonic disarray that he would find his more rarefied style as a DJ.

DJ Spacebear was one of the first DJs I had seen after moving to Oslo. He was playing in Mir, when it was still in Toftes gate, crouching over the mixer and two technics turntables, making minute adjustments on the faders. Two tracks were overlapping like two waves merging on a calm beach, with only slight adjustment in volume between the two pieces. Lars completely ignored the EQ section, merely fading one record into the next with a care that suggested a personal dedication to each track. “I like to have respect for the music,” he says when I ask him about his curious style. “I think you should show what the artist expresses.” He feigns from using “FX” in his mixes and although he’ll be more adventurous with the crossfader when he’s playing more jacking Chicago House, that attention to detail in the music prevails. 

It’s something that can be heard in the meta narrative of any DJ Spacebear DJ set too. His parents, a pair of “old hippies” that were “really into music” had always given Lars a very liberal freedom to “listen to what I wanted,” but when it came to DJ mixes, it was he who started to define the boundaries. In a record collection that nearly covers the recorded format, Lars doesn’t consider himself an “eclectic” DJ. “I wanted to create my own worlds,” he explains and strives to create mixes designated to distinct spheres in electronic music. While he can be found  “jumpin between planets” from time, these only cover short distances beholden to the theme of the mix, defined by succinct categorisations like Acid, Jazz or when Lars gets particularly contemplative, Ambient. 

The first Ambient record

Ambient music like Techno arrived from space with the Orb’s Blue Room in 1992 for Lars. “I was totally stunned by the lush, atmospheric cinematic sound on that record,” he remembers “and it had the same otherworldly sound as techno and rave.“

Ambient music had already been indoctrinated in rave culture at that point with raves sequestering a specific space for this kind of music in the chill-out room. While “train spotting some records that Mr.Kolstad (one of the members of Superskill) played at a rave in 1994” in one such room, Lars’ interest piqued and “started crate digging in used record shops to find out more about this old future.” It was music that extended long tendrils into the furthest reaches of recorded music, and it informed a large part of Lars’ own “experimentations” in the booth. Even today, he’s looking for those gateways to different planets between techno, house, acid, breakbeat, hardcore, and trance with ambient records like Pete Namlook’s FAX record, often bridging these gaps in one single record. 

At some point these fluid transitions between genres would start stretching the divide and that’s when the rooms at raves started splitting further and further apart in Oslo. Euro trance eventually ascended on the city too, saturating the last embers of a dying rave scene that couldn’t compete with the commercial dominance and people like Lars “pulled back to the underground.” Clubs like Skansen and Escape established new microcosms in Oslo clubbing shortly afterwards and Lars naturally moved with the Techno crowd and became a regular fixture in the booth at places like escape. 

The first drum Machine

During all this time he was nurturing a slow and steady development as an artist. He had bought his first drum machine, a Roland TR606 for 300kr after he saw DJ Hanza and Lars Petter Holte perform as D.A.C in a record store in Oslo. Already harbouring a curiosity for the mechanics of the music, there was an “a-ha moment” when he saw their performance. “It looked like a spaceship” he remembers with Holte and Hansen pushing buttons and turning knobs from their unusual control panel. “I have to do this,” Lars remembers thinking at the time and he would start incorporating the TR606 in his DJ sets at home. “I didn’t start making music,” he insists, “I just played with it.”

Getting to grips with the machine was easy and eventually he made some “really horrible” music with a friend, but it was only much later in 2008, that he would release his first records. It was “horrible time” however as the vinyl market had all but collapsed with Tech House DJs spawning like a digital virus on beatport. DJ Spacebear released three records on his own Retrace label in that year nonetheless. They were a selection of “old music” that Lars had been gathering over the years, with frenzied analogue drum machines and sinewy synths, playing to the functional demands of the DJ in a kind of modernised interpretation of retro Chicago sounds. 

They are records that were ahead of their time in terms of 2008 and would probably be more appreciated today, in the resurgence of the DIY nineties trends, than they would’ve been at the time of the uber-produced minimal Techno and Tech House that dominated the later half of the naughties.

“I think it’s more exciting than ever,” says Lars about the conditions today as we talk about some of the younger DJs and producers coming through in Oslo, appreciating these same sounds. “People are really interested in the history” he believes while “looking to the future.” It’s in this landscape he will be releasing his fourth record on Retrace as DJ Spacebear, informed by that same “retro Chicago” sound that defined his earliest music. The two tracks on this next release will be a couple of “jacking acid, old-school” tracks says Lars, but at the same time he’s already talking about the release after that one.

While his first records came out when everybody in Oslo was gravitating to Rock music, and DJ gigs were few and far between, this time around it seems that the rest of the city is finally on his wavelength. He had remained dedicated throughout those quiet years, biding his time with a radio show on Skranglebass and DJing when the rare gig cropped up, and today it seems that he is as busy as ever with a residency (or as close to one as you can get it) at Hærverk and playing every week, often twice. 

While the week before he had been playing a selection of Jazz electronica at Hærverk, on this occasion it will be Disco. In the week coming there’s a liquid drum n bass set in the wings, while the future will also see him playing alongside Detroit legend Orlando Voorn at Hærverk. 

He’s still digging through it all and while we wait around for Tuesday night to swing into action, he’s talking about a recent trip to Brazil, where he found some records of field recordings that “you can play in an ambient set” and the hidden treasures of Phillippenian Disco. 

He is still digging for new and old music in search of any “creative surprises” and he continues to “discover a lot of interesting Drum n Bass, Ambient, Dub, Drone, Dubstep styles like Martsman, James Clemens, Synkro and Shackleton.” It’s just one “smooth transition” to the other for Lars and as a music enthusiast the limits to his curiosity continue to go undefined. He’s merely an intrepid, intergalactic traveller, moving from one body to the next in an unabating curiosity, and a truly musical dedication for the records he plays. 

 

A legacy in House music: Profile on David Morales

By 1998, House music was no longer the reserve of a clandestine underground, operating out of New York, Chicago and Detroit. House music had reached the masses on an international scale with everybody from MTV to the Rolling Stones looking for a stake in genre. It had become big business beyond the majors as chartered flights to Ibiza grew exponentially and Pioneer introduced the CDJ 100s, turning DJing into an increasingly popular past time and a commodity for the brand.

In that year David Morales won a Grammy for remixer of the year, ironic since he’d all but given up on the studio, and released the original track ”Needin U.” It was a track that exceeded all expectations, and which some people still look on today as the track that solidified their love for House music. To Morales however this was just  “some sample shit I fucking slapped together,“ according to an interview with the artist on Finn Johannsen’s blog. It took him 2 hours to make that track and it was little more than an amalgam of two records he used to play back to back as a DJ, but the record lived on beyond Morales’ initial rejections and it became a definitive hit for the artist.  

The video for “Needin U” is a time capsule of that era and would make regular appearances on MTV’s late night programming well into the 2000’s. Filmed on location in Ibiza, it features an incredibly tanned David Morales arriving at the airport, with a record under his arm and a set of headphones in his hands – and no other luggage oddly – indulging in the heady excesses of the late nineties Ibiza from the beach to the club, featuring Morales in various stages of undress. Girls in bikinis, sand, sea and sun had distinguished that summer that House music reigned supreme with DJs like David Morales becoming household names for a new generation of kids flocking to the popularised sounds of the genre.  

David Morales had come a long way by then since his humble origins, and his is a story that echoes the story of House music. Born to a Puerto Rican family in New York, Morales was “living in the ghetto” when he discovered American music for the first time. There had only been Merengue, Salsa and folk music from Puerto Rico playing around the House before a babysitter had introduced a very young Morales to a 45 record called Spinning Wheel by Blood Sweat & Tears. “I can remember I was really, really young” he told Finn Johannsen, but it had released an early interest in music that soon saw the curious youngster frequent the local “illegal social clubs” in his neighbourhood. Under-aged, but unperturbed he would explore these new sounds at these illicit joints, one of which was in his building below. “It was all about the O’Jays and that kind of music. And I liked that.“ He bought his first O’Jays record and remembers “playing that record a hundred times a day” with a speaker hanging  out of the window so the whole neighbourhood could hear.

At 13 he had heard his first DJ playing Disco records consecutively, and by 15 he went to his first club and bought “Ten Percent“ on Salsoul. The speaker hanging out the window soon developed into a party in his apartment, and requests to play at other people’s house parties followed as he became a local mobile Disco music of some repute. “I just loved the music, it was just everything for me,” he remembers. At 18 he had made something of a career out of it, playing mostly commercial music, before somebody dropped “a stack of what they called Loft records” at his feet. “I was like ‘Whoa, what is this sound?’” It was a selection of expensive, limited press- and imported records, the kind of which they had been playing not only at the Loft, but also Paradise Garage. Although Morales had not yet been to either club, since they were strictly private clubs, he started making inroads as a dancer frequenting venues like Paradise Garage and the Loft through acquaintances with memberships, and eventually befriending people like Mancusso and DJ Kenny Carpenter. It was through Carpenter that he was inducted into a record pool, the first organisations that supplied DJs with new, unreleased music for the club, and it was through this pool that he would have his first major break as DJ.

He had already started playing at a club in Flatbush called the Ozone layer as a resident when somebody at the pool recommended Morales to Paradise Garage owner Michael Brody. Morales had only “been to the Garage five times just to hang out” according to an interview on the DJ History blog, when Brody called him up and Morales almost dismissed the request as a joke. “‘Hello, my name is Michael Brody, I own a club called Paradise Garage’” he tells Johannsen, re-enacting the scene, “and I’m like ‘Yeah boy, who the fuck is fucking me.’” Brody had never heard Morales play, but offered him a weekend at the Garage to cover a DJ that had “been playing like shit” purely on the recommendation of the record pool. 

“This wasn’t about doing two-hour sets,” he told Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton at DJ History, “this was about 11-hour sets, beginning to end, 12 to 11. And you had to beg me to stop!” It cemented Morales’ reputation amongst the best of them, installing the twenty-year-old at the same echelon as Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles, sowing the seeds of what would become House music, in the bed that Disco cultivated

One of the places that was at the forefront of this new era in music in the early eighties was Red Zone in Manhattan where Morales soon took up a residency after his Paradise Garage debut. The Red Zone was where he “really made a statement for the new age” according to the DJ history piece. “I think the Red Zone was definitely the turning point on the maps for music changing.” The Red Zone played to dancing audiences with music that was “mostly no vocals or some vocals” according to Morales in Johannsen’s blog with tracks that favoured “the dark side.” “Red Zone was the only place that you were hearing that kind of music,” and this new music was the turning point that would take Disco out of the the glitzy realm of Studio 54 and re-invent it in the grimy underbelly of New York, Chicago and Detroit as House music. 

Red Zone and what Morales established there was instrumental in House music’s history and it went hand in hand with the advent of the 12” format and the remix . It’s in this context that David Morales would make the greatest contributions to the genre. It was the remix where he staked his claim as a pioneer that bridged the gap between popular music and dance floor functionality. In a career spanning nearly forty years as a remixer, he helped establish it as an artform with his interpretations often exceeding the popularity of the originals or in the case of Shabba  Ranks’ Loverboy reworking the track to inform most of what came of the original. His credits include Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Jamiroquai, Depeche Mode, Aretha Franklin and the Spice Girls and besides winning the Grammy in 1998 his accolades included the highest paid remixer for his work on Michael Jackson’s scream at that time. “I spent a week in Michael Jackson-land,” he recalls in DJ History. It was´ a remix that he believes, he had to “compromise the most on” through his career and probably played some part in his eventual decision to stop making remixes and essentially “creating hits for other people.”

It all started simply enough in 1984 with a reel to reel “editing my little mash-ups” before he met remixer Bruce Forest, and set out to create a remix of “Instinctual” by Imagination. The Arthur Baker-produced original had been given the Stock Aitken Waterman treatment with something that sounded like a trifling attempt at “Rick Aistely” according to Morales in Finn Johannsen’s blog. Morales didn’t win over Baker and the band either with an out-of-key interpretation of the original, but it sounded “great” to Morales and his resolve paid its just rewards when it became his “first real hit.” In DJ History he remembers “Larry Levan telling me, ‘Great, great job.’ I was like,’Wow, Larry told me I did a good mix.’” That remix laid the foundation for more remixes, leading him onto a path to Def Mix and working with Frankie Knuckles.

Frankie and Morales had been on familiar terms since his time as a dancer at the Loft and had shared the same manager, a studio and musicians for their individual remix requests for some time before forming Def Mix. “That’s why we had the so-called Def Mix sound,” Morales told Johannsen. With requests flooding in from everywhere, both artists occupied their own sphere in music, with Morales luring major labels to his work, remixing songs like “Dreamlover” for a young Mariah Carey. It’s one of the remixes he remains the most proud of today, “because it was a pop record and we did something different with it,” he told House of Frankie in an interview. Mariah Carey came into the studio to re-record her vocals and together with the songstress Morales practically re-wrote the song with an intended purpose for the club and today it marks as one of the highlights in an extensive discography.

Morales and Frankie were Def Mix, with each artist bringing their own unique talents to the music of others. Eventually Morales got “fed up” with other people “running to the bank” on his ideas and with requests that were becoming increasingly “one-dimensional.” He decided “to draw a line” and “stop giving his ideas away.” “ I’d rather make my own music for that,” he told Johannsen “than to keep doing the same.” 

By 1998, after being nominated two times before, he was finally honoured for his contributions to the world of remixing, but by that time Morales had moved on, stopped working on remixes and created  “Needin U.” That record came at a time when “Morales sort of got bored of the studio,” according to an interview with Higher Frequency. “I was asked to go on the road and I ended up constantly spending more time on the road and didn’t have much time in the studio.” 

The studio eventually beckoned again, and off the back of the success of “Needin U,” Morales started releasing more of his own original work, culminating in the 2004 LP, 2 Worlds Collide. Eleven David Morales originals, featuring vocals by Tamra Keenan, Angela Hunte, Lea-Lorién and Vivian Sessoms, set the tone for this next phase in his career, in which creative compromises would not be entertained for the sake of appeasing a major record label. “I financed the whole album myself and I didn’t really care about being on a major,” Morales told Higher Frequency around the time the LP was released. “They don’t care about the creativity and the heart that goes into it.” 

There was a crossover appeal that went to the LP. Staccato horns and strings jut out of the rough orchestration with lively percussive arrangements bulging through the tracks. On the title track, guitars and a snare lifted from an eighties synthwave track almost seem out of place in the rest of the acid House arrangement, but it’s uniquely Morales with a verse chorus structure guiding Keenan’s vocals through different phases of the song. David Morales had “learned a lot about producing vocals” and it would inform much of his work as a solo artist going forward right up to the present and his last release, “Freedom” with Janice Robinson on vocal duties. ”I suppose if you just work within your own entity, you’re just working for yourself,” Morales explained of his work with vocalists in Higher Frequency, ”but when you bring somebody else in, then you somehow have to work it so you get a great piece of work.

While 2 Worlds Collide started a healthy relationship with Ultra Music, Morales also started releasing music on labels like Rekids and Cadenza, and when Def Mix relaunched as a label in 2013, he would return to the franchise with original releases and edits most often under the auspices of the Red Zone project. 

He was with “Def Mix for a very long time” he told House of Frankie. He had been with the institution for over thirty years and had played an integral role in its creation, but it was only by 2018 he was looking for something more from a label, and set up Diridim. “Diridim is just me moving forward on a global scale,” he explained to House of Frankie. While Def Mix and Morales’ previous work was all about classic “House” Diridim is “about making vocal music.” The venture is for “new artists and not just soulful-house music” and Morales is always on the lookout for artists to contribute to the label’s “worldly music” vision of House music. 

Morales’ unique approach to House music is what informs the sound of the label. His earliest musical roots, playing commercial music to the neighbourhood; his extensive work with female vocalists; and the integral role he played in the earliest development of House music, continue to inform Morales’ work. 

We’re further away from 1998 today, than 1998 was from the gestation of House music, and David Morales continues to wave the banner for House music today. He will always be a significant figure in House music history, as one of the pioneers of the genre that brought it into the mainstream, and as a DJ, producer and artist, he’s cemented a legacy intertwined in the legacy of House music.

Chasing the spirit with Erol Alkan

When the London party Trash closed its doors in 2007, it marked the end of an era for DJing and club culture. The eclecticism that founder Erol Alkan and guests like Soulwax (neé 2 many DJs) had brought to the DJ booth, born from the embers of electroclash, had fuelled a new kind of club culture built on a heady fusion of alternative music and fashion as embodied by Trash. The boundaries between music, born from Rock n Roll and it’s estranged electronic club cousin had been erased, and the Monday night party had been instrumental in the era with visceral selections that “joined the dots” between Bowie, Daft Punk, The Stooges, LCD Soundsystem and even Motörhead. 

By 2007 that style of club culture had reached fever pitch, with new DJs and producers adopting the sonic aesthetic, but without care for the detailed subtleties in knowledge their predecessors brought to their skill, it had also become something of cliché. “That kind of musical dilettantism,” Soulwax member and Trash regular David Dewewale told the Guardian in a reflective 2017 piece about Trash “became a terrible sport afterwards.” 

“A lot of people did that back then, but you could tell it wasn’t really in that spirit,” says Erol Alkan over a telephone call. “Not because we thought we should play a rock record, because we’ve got to play an electronic record after that,” but because of something that went “beyond taste.” 

A brief video transmission shows Erol in a room with a wall of records behind him as he settles into our conversation. It’s the first week in January, and he sounds relaxed considering he had played an extensive set at Bugged Out on new year’s day. A few years back he started cutting down on his DJ commitments, from “eight gigs a month,” to playing only every other weekend in order to spend more time with his family, but even in a career spanning thirty years, his ”love” for DJing and making music remains as strong as ever.

*Erol Alkan is at Jaeger this week for Frædag

Today he’s a sought-after DJ, regularly playing around the world, and an in-demand artist who although he releases music reticently, is constantly making music or working on other people’s music as a remixer and producer. When he’s not working on music he’s facilitating new and established artists through his Phantasy Sound label and while he might not play as often as he did perhaps five years ago, Erol Alkan continues to be a significant figure on the international DJ circuit.  

At the height of Trash, Erol would have been playing every week at the famed residency to a packed crowd, which for any Monday night anywhere remains a rare feat. It was a night that truly blurred the lines between genres and thrived in the eclecticism of tastemakers like Erol Alkan. When it disappeared from the scene, nothing quite like it would ever take its place again in London or anywhere else. 

Everything became “slightly segregated again” shortly after according to Deweale in the Guardian, with defined borders appearing between genres and microcosms like minimal Techno and Electro-House finding their own dedicated scenes. Trash was the “perfect celebration of eclectic taste” according to Deweale, and while there are DJs that still perpetuate this  spirit, there’s never been a night or a scene quite like the one that Erol Alkan and his guests cultivated during that time. 

What was it about the time that was so perfect for Trash to exist?

I think it was because of electroclash happening and having such a strong visual identity at that point. It embodied the fashion and the aesthetics of the early eighties where there was a brilliant fusion between electronics and avant garde pop music, like post-Bowie glam rock giving birth to the new wave. 

I suppose finding all these electronic records, inspired from that era, you would find their natural cousins from the rock or alternative scene that worked so well alongside each other. 

It was also a time when that scene was truly international. I think that was as important as the way the records sounded. I was in London and you had people like James Murphy and in New York; Soulwax in Belgium; Gonzales in Berlin; Tiga in Canada, and I suppose Daft Punk were a big part of that in Paris. In the UK I also saw the Chemical Brothers as the precursor to that spirit, and Optimo in Glasgow and Andrew Weatherall… All these people looked at the musical landscape with as much width as possible.

All these people you mention there are the DJs and artists that are very much at the forefront of that spirit today.

And because of that, you can’t really question their appetite for it. I don’t think we view records via genre. I certainly don’t.

It’s that broad view and what he established through his Trash nights that had set Erol Alkan apart from his more orthodox contemporaries at that time and still does today. Alongside DJs like Soulwax, Optimo and Andrew Weatherall, his reputation preceded him wherever he went after Trash. The event and Erol’s sets found audiences that were hungry to hear new music on nights that pushed the boundaries of club culture from the music to the fashion. 

“That gave me the confidence to take risks in everything,” Erol told the Quietus in an interview from 2013. “Break eggs to make omelettes, never be complacent or think ‘I’ve got a career here, I’ve got to keep it going.’” It continued to inform his sets and music even after Trash and cemented a reputation in the booth as a modern day archetype with a drive to explore the absolute limits of his iconoclastic musical tastes.

He had “always enjoyed DJs that brought in other influences in their sets” in an ethos that continues to inform his own DJ sets. That is still “one of the beauties of Djing”, he claims, which is in his view “as expressive as any other form of art… in the right hands.”

While what he and his guests pioneered at Trash may have become a trend shortly after, Erol has never felt the need to perpetuate that particular sound and has always favoured evolution over distinction. “As a DJ you can’t expect to be the same DJ as you were ten years before,” he explains. “What I have to offer people has changed over the last ten years and I’m completely comfortable with that. You have to evolve and change, and not let the past haunt your present.” 

Does that mean you have to give your audience something new in terms of your selections, all the time?

Sometimes I feel that I want to hear these things out as well and I want to stay true to what I’m excited by. I know it can be very easy to have one set and play everywhere, but that will be quite boring for me. 

Do you believe that audiences are open to new and different kinds of music than they were during the electroclash era?

In a nutshell, yes. I couldn’t measure it, but right now, some of the general excitement in the room is when I take a u-turn. Sometimes it can divide a few people, but generally it excites people. What people look for in DJs now is to turn them on to new things. I think the thirst for knowledge and the thirst to hear new sounds are greater than I can remember. 

There are a lot of DJs becoming successful in club culture, who started on the radio, where they are able to present an eclectic sense of what they did. That’s climatized a lot of people that go out to clubs now that want to hear a wider range of music.

It was Erol and his contemporaries that paved the way for these artists to explore that wide range of music. A fervent fan of music from an early age, Erol started DJing when he was still in school and if he wasn’t playing or listening to music it seems he was he was out somewhere experiencing it. “From 1991 through to 2000 I was probably out every night, seeing bands or going to club nights” he told fabric in an interview with their blog

DJing had been a natural outlet as a way of digesting all these early influences and sharing it with his peers, because for Erol; “you want to share music, that’s fundamentally what (DJing) is.” He utilized everything to his disposal to achieve this with an inquisitive drive, regardless of quotidian restrictions like budgetary constraints.   

“When I started Djing I started DJing off vinyl, CD, tape cassette and video cassette because that’s what I had my music on,” he recalls with a hint of excitement in his voice. 

Video cassette, really? 

Yes, because I couldn’t afford to buy music, so I recorded off the television. So no one will ever tell me that my hunger was any less than everybody else. 

 

You mentioned records there, but in the age of USB and CDJ’s where you can basically have your entire record collection at your fingertips, do you still prepare your sets  in the same way you did back then?

Yes, I basically have an idea of what I’m going to play, because I know the venue and I maybe want to stick with a certain sound. I will have a playlist of records, but the order that I play them in is always open to interpretation. 

I try to have an awareness of tempo and intensity of the music, so I don’t assume I’m going to start with a certain record and end with a certain record, but you have a vague map in your head. I try to keep it relatively fresh for myself as well. I don’t like to play the same set from the night before. 

50% of DJing is the records you choose to take out with you, and the other 50% is the records you play when you read the room.

If that’s the case Is there a common thread besides those records between your sets in different contexts?

It just goes back to that spirit I was talking about before. It’s music which hopefully has enough in it to get lost within. Escapism is a big thing that I get from what I do. It’s usually because of the records I feel have a personality that I can believe in, or lose myself in. But I think the real power is in how you thread the records together.

Do you think younger audiences crave a level of intensity from the DJ more than what they did perhaps ten years ago?

From the naughties to 2010, I always felt that I was inside some kind of zeitgeist. The scene that I inhabited was such a global movement in that way. It was always intense. That wasn’t because of youth, but when there is a scene like that it’s inviting to many generations. 

Now I think a lot of DJs who are far more considerate in their selections are getting the attention that they deserve, more so than maybe ten years ago. The inspiration for a lot of new DJs are from an area that is far truer to the spirit of DJing than the business of DJing. 

It’s in that very spirit he established the record label, Phantasy Sound shortly after the end of Trash. “Phantasy to me is an extension of Trash,” he proclaimed in that interview with the Quietus. The label was established at the end of 2007, harnessing that eclecticism of Trash with releases that went from the indie synth pop of Late of Pier; cut through to the immense dance floor constructions of Daniel Avery; and go completely left field with an artist like Babe Terror.

There’s not exactly a philosophy that underpins the label, but rather an extension of the spirit that imbibes everything Erol Alkan touches. “You kind of put out what you love at that point in time, and you just try and make it work,” says Erol about his approach to the artists and records that make it onto the label. While “it’s not easy if you look at it from a commercial point of view” in the era of streaming, Phantasy Sound continues to go from one end to the next, putting out successful dancefloor records like of Daniel Avery’s highly successful Drone Logic alongside more experimental works like Babe Terror’s Ancient M’Ocean. 

Bridging the gap between these two expressive sonic worlds is Erol Alkan, whose own reserved output as a solo artist and as Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve dot the labels prolific output. His last record Spectrum / Silver Echoes came out in 2018, a record that although at times functional, it also tests the limits of the dance floor, with remixes from Matrixxman to Baris K showcasing the width of possibility in both tracks.

Spectrum immediately struck me as peculiar, because it has the accents on the off beats on the melodic parts and the live drums in the introduction. What was the intention with a record like that and what does it reflect about your own music?

Spectrum was designed for me as a linking record, where I could play disco or psych and then be able to move into Chicago or House and Techno. I’ve always liked fusion records. I felt like if I add a record to the big pile of music that’s made every week, I don’t want to make music that’s functional. I want to make something, and I hate using this word, but something that’s challenging. Whenever I come across a record that’s not basic, I appreciate it. As a DJ, I have a new colour to paint with. When making your own music, you want something unique about it.

Do you think you emphasise that more in music you make today, than when you started out releasing records?

No, and I can answer that question really easily. At a time when I was part of a really noisy scene, like the whole EddBanger, Boys Noize electro sound. I would do something like the Hot Chip, boy from school remix, which is completely the other side of that kind of thing for me. I always felt that even though I was part of something I always wanted to make something that was truthful to me, but also different. I always felt that need to not to do the obvious. 

As far as I understand it, you work on music constantly, but you’re quite reserved about releasing music. How do you know when something is good enough to put out without contributing to the that big pile of records you mentioned earlier?

If I’m not making music under a different name like Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve or I’m not producing other people, and I get to a point where I want to put tracks out under a different name it kind of just tells me, ‘put me out’. 

I made spectrum in 2014. Black Crow by Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve that came out in 2016, that was written in 2009. Diagram girl that was made in 2009. A track that if you feel it’s right and it’s you, that can come out whenever. The right music for me is always timeless. For instance, I just found out that they used Chilly Gonzales’ piano version of Waves as the countdown in the centre of Paris. If you can live on beyond yourself, that’s the ultimate. 

Whether he’s working on a record for British shoegaze legends, Ride or mixing down a record for one of the Phantasy Sound artists, there is always a concerted effort to produce something “timeless” in his music. Records like Waves then remain relevant and even though they might have been the product of that zeitgeist, the spirit of them lives on in everything Erol Alkan approaches, from the label, to his records, and most prominently through his work as DJ.

There is no need to be rigging up video cassette players any more and Trash is quite content, resigned to the past, where it’s made an indelible impact on an international music scene. But it’s the spirit of those endeavours that remain the impermeable foundation and the continued appeal of Erol Alkan as an artist, a producer and a DJ.

Delaying the pleasure with KiNK

*Photos by Peter Vulchev

We’re edging into Saturday morning at Jaeger and the incandescent ceiling in the basement is flickering on the pulse House bass groove. A tropical mood is sweeping across the dance floor,  as hues of blue, green and red shine down from artificial heavens, in stark contrast to the brisk December temperatures on the surface. At the front, people in short sleeves are pressed up against the stage, waving hands like tendrils reaching up to the sky in some subconscious effort to reach at the celestial vocals currently projected through the upper frequencies of the sound system.

On stage, Strahil Velchev’s face is beaming. He’s assumed his KiNK alias for the second in a double appearance at Jaeger and the lower level has filled out for the second night. His hand hovers over a drum machine for a moment, waiting for some imperceptible cue from his audience to launch into the next phase of an improvised composition, but it doesn’t quite arrive as he turns suddenly to the Rhodes keyboard at his side to hammer out a faintly familiar theme.

His entire being is entrenched in the moment as his body convulses in time with the thin percussion where a simple snare and hi-hat arrangement are counting out syncopated beats between an elusive 4-4 rhythm. The audience is on the edge of an imaginary precipice, hanging on every note the Bulgarian artist is banging out on the reluctant vintage keyboard as the last formants of a vocal line dissipate into the porous log cabin walls. 

They’re all waiting for the resolve, the pay-off and the absent kick drum to return, but at the next bar, they are denied their moment yet again and the audience collectively holds its breath in an audible “aah” for another phrase. 

It’s a choreographed dance between Velchev and his audience. It’s a a continuous exercise in control, “delaying the pleasure” for the audience through instinct and manipulation and something that he’s mastered as a live performer over the last decade. It’s a fragile, yet symbiotic relationship and relishes in the unexpected directions the artist conducts like a sonic auteur. There’s a clear affinity for the machines and the music that has all but defined his career as an artist and yet it wasn’t quite what the artist had in mind when he started out his career as KiNK. 

“I was originally a DJ, and I really didn’t like the idea of playing live” he told Electronic Beats in a candid piece from 2017. It’s a sentiment he re-iterates when we sit down for a meal in downtown Oslo ahead of his first appearance at Jaeger. It was “definitely not my second choice even,” he says before taking a bite of something crunchy, but he admits it’s been “key to international recognition” and today it’s exactly this context where he’s garnered much of his appeal as KiNK.

It’s been two years since we last saw Velchev as KiNK in Oslo, and buzz around the event has already exceeded our expectations. He has lost some weight since his last visit; his rounded facial features taking on more rigid angular dimension, and an athletic frame is bulging at places through a dark v-neck sweater. He’s “proud” of his recent weight loss and doesn’t mind “showing it off” on his ever-active Instagram profile, with shirtless beach photos dotting his summer timeline.

The Bulgarian producer, DJ and artist is in good spirits. It’s a rare occasion that he’s at an extended stopover, but our conversation precludes a double bill where he will perform as Kirilik for the first night, before assuming the recognisable KiNK alias for the next. He has just finished his soundcheck for Kirilik; a hybrid live set that jumps between pre-recorded samples played from CDJs accompanied by drum machine, and he’s eager to talk about this relatively new Techno project as we find our seats in a predominantly vacant dining room.

“I started the Kirilik project 5 years ago,” explains Velchev before we even sit down. Kirilik was born from an interest in modular synthesisers, but he wasn’t able to find the right application for it, especially in the KiNK universe. “I found that with this instrument I couldn’t have the sounds as the centre of music,” and that led him down a path to a new side-project “which could accommodate the “more repetitive, more experimental” sounds he was coaxing from this new instrument. 

He found the modular system “very delicate and fragile” and “impossible” to utilize in a performance and yet there was a wealth of sound at its core that he wanted to explore. He sampled these sounds to play them back on a trio of CDJs with a drum machine setting out the tempo, laying down the groundwork for a performance project that would eventually become Kirilik. It was conceived as a live project, something “you could only enjoy in the club” initially, but as requests started flooding in for gigs  – “since techno is the new rock music” – he soon realised; “I need to give promoters an instrument” to draw attention to these events. He released two records on Len Faki’s Figure imprint, but like KiNK, Kirilik is anchored in the context of a live project, and unlike KiNK each performance is unique and performances bear absolutely no resemblance to the recorded archives.

Inspired by Jeff Mills’ use of locked grooves on three decks for the legendary Purpose Maker video from the nineties, Velchev employs the same techniques on the newer technology that dominate the clubbing landscape. The results are tactile and impulsive with hints of funky Detroit grooves and melodies snaking their way through pragmatic eurocentric beats. Watching the soundcheck there’s a flurry of hands, manipulating an extensive palette that appears to streak across vast musical languages in bold swathes of textural colour. There’s an instinctive in Velchev’s animated movements like an invisible tether pulling him from one phrase to the next with sounds like a visceral language gestating from inanimate machines. 

“I’ve always liked manipulating sound” remembers Velchev of the formative years that has applied him with this skill. “From a very early age, I loved to play with the radio and the volume” and it’s this expressive exploration that has remained the basis of  his experiments in music today. Although he played the piano as a child, he found he had “no great talent for traditional musical instruments” – even if his movements on our stage piano suggests otherwise. He had always been a “music lover”  and even during Bulgaria’s communist years he “was buying Disco records,” but when the iron curtain fell in 1989, the “borders opened for western culture” and the allure of electronic music spoke directly to Velchev’s inquisitive nature. 

“At that time the format changed from vinyl to cassette,” he recalls with street vendors selling pirated copies of dance music compilations to a new generation of kids like Velchev sampling the decadent delights of western dance floors across eastern Europe for the first time. Although “the club came quite later” and “DJing came (even) later because of budget,” Velchev had already started picking up a rudimentary understanding of DJing and electronic music through playing cassettes back to back. While he has “been doing this for a long time,” his first steps to international recognition only came quite recently in the scope of his biography and it culminates with the first drum machine he acquired a little over ten years ago. It was with that drum machine and some expert manipulation from his agent that the artist set forth on the career path that has made him the endearing artist and performer that he is today.

He credits his “ex-agent Kai Fischer” for pushing him into the live arena, but there’s always been an inherent affinity for this machine music that sets KiNK apart from his contemporaries, and is more than just experience. From a small jumble of wires and boxes he coaxes not only sounds and impulsive rhythms but a sweltering atmosphere that seems to arrive from some peripheral instinct. Even earlier, when he was still just a DJ, he “would abuse the controls on the mixer” in a similar pursuit, and while critics often accused him of “destroying the sound” back then, it has made for an exciting advantage on the stage today. Electronic music instruments remain an unceasing form of inspiration in Velchev’s child-like desires “to make noise” and after a period of development it’s reached a point where he can “actually enjoy it” today.  

As KiNK, records started to emerge on small independent labels around Europe from 2005, but by 2010 he had started making impressive contributions on labels like Josh Wink’s Ovum and Boe Recordings. Records like Aphex KiNK EP and remixes for the likes of Tiga’s Turbo recordings had brought the sounds of KiNK to an audience beyond Bulgaria’s borders, cementing the sound of the artist alongside his ever-glowing reputation as a live performer. KiNK was to become that rare double threat, an artist who was able to bring that energy of dance record to a live show and back again to the record.  

“Playing live really changed the way of making music,” for Velchev. Where before he would “program” his music “in the studio,” he soon “started making music on the stage.” In his 2017 LP Playground (Running Back), the effects are quite prominent. It’s nothing that comes down to a science, or theoretically discernible, but rather something more abstract. “It’s a feeling you can’t programme” in Velchev’s’ words and it goes “against all logic.” He started “performing in the studio” in an effort to “capture that spirit” of the live show he had cultivated as KiNK for the recorded format, developing these two apsects of his music side by side into a singular artistic identity. 

Unpredictable forms that fall between rhythmical integers and melodic themes that float in some no-man’s land between semitones break with the functional traditions of House music. There’s a transience throughout a record like Playground as melodies come together for a moment before evaporating and phases linger unexpectedly and depart just as erratically. From the stomping insistence of “The Russian” to the dogged two-step rhythms of “Peter Plet Plete,” the record avoids the predetermined nature of club music in search of something beyond the superficial. The results intrigue, and while it’s mostly down to performance methods, Velchev admits that this unpredictability in his music is something that inherited in part from the musical traditions of Bulgaria.

“I cannot escape my roots, I cannot escape those rhythms,” explains Velchev through a mouthful of some “spicy” dish. It’s something that stems from Bulgaria’s folk traditions, in a music that is commonly considered gypsy music in the region, and presented in contemporary House music structures through the sounds of KiNK and even Kirilik to some extent. “I never liked our folk music,” the Bulgarian confesses, and in his youth there were even times when he absolutely “hated it.” 

He started hearing traces of this traditional music however in the music coming  in from the western front with groups like Orbital and Future sound of London sampling these familiar pieces in their albums and EPs. It led to an “aha moment” for Velchev in which he realised he could utilise these traditional elements in the same way “a foreigner would.”

“In a sense my music is very based on gypsy music,” he says before explaining, “because I’m always looking for those notes between the semitone” and those beats that don’t fall on regular beats. What might sound confusing to the conditioned ear is natural to Bulgarian folk traditions, because “you cannot count to four” in the same way and there’s very little that could equate to any western music theory. “In Bulgaria we don’t count,“ says Velchev, stressing his point with a smile, “we just dance.” 

Alongside those western influences, producer, DJ, writer and cultural theorist, Stefan Goldmann played a significant role in Velchev’s newfound appreciation for this roots music. “Stefan is the guy who showed me the Bulgarian traditional music (in a new light)” he asserts, “showed me the beauty of gypsy music which I was denying at that time.” It was around that time that he produced his debut LP as KiNK, “Under Destruction.” Goldmann’s Macro label, unsurprisingly facilitated the album, and it’s an LP that Velchev is “most proud of” today. “It was not a big record, but in terms of personal achievement musically, that is a highlight.”

As KiNK, Velchev has largely feigned from the LP format, unless there’s some sense of “identity” to the record and while Playground’s identity derived and was inspired around the tactility of the instruments he used for that record, “Under Destruction” was the “only time” Velchev felt he had a “certain vision” and “something to say.”

It’s a record that falls awkwardly on the western ear. The unusual rhythm structures and atonal (in western standards) character of the music breaks step with the underlying nature of the music. It’s a record still very much directed at the dance floor, with kick drums falling on familiar intervals, but the esoteric expressions that lie beyond its foundations offer something more contemplative for the listener. It’s something of a “paradox” for Velchev too, who has always considered himself a “dancer first” and whose music has always relied on a functional aspect. “Being experimental and innovative is a passion for me, but (all) in the constraints of being a dancer.”

It’s this paradox that has taken Velchev into his latest venture, a record label called, Sofia. Velchev believes the label picks up where Under Destruction left off and it pays specific homage to the Bulgarian capital it is named after. After reconnecting with Konstantine Petrov, “an old friend” who had played a hand in KiNK’s early development and had shown him “how to make music in the nineties,” Velchev and Petrov created the label as an outlet for the sounds of the city. “We’re not praising Sofia” he says poignantly, but “Sofia is the city that influenced us more with a lot of negative and a lot of  positive aspects. We are what we are and our music is what it is because we lived and met in the city.” 

The first release on the label came via KiNK, with the aptly titled “Home,” and in that record we find similarities to KiNK’s music from “Under Destruction” as tracks play on similar rhythmic and melodic themes, distilled down from traditional music, with titles like The Clock and The Grid redefining the concepts contained in their titles for western ears. Accompanying the release and future releases from a small, but dedicated community of artists, are a series of photos – most of which taken on phone – from Bulgarian DJ legend DJ Valentine. Alongside the music it consolidates a label that for the first time will distill some of that Bulgarian traditions into a contemporary platform.

Although Velchev had been toying with the idea of a label for the last four years it was only “with time, a certain idea crystalized” where there could be “a musical identity in the first record.” Home inaugurates this identity with KiNK’s now familiar Bulgarian intuitions where “the rhythm is out of the standard grid and the tonality is out of the standard scale” and the music takes on a very unique character as a result, which some might even consider experimental. “Some people would say it’s experimental,” agrees Velchev, “but for me it’s just the pure essence of KiNK.”

It’s hard to define that essence, because it’s an amalgam of extraneous factors, funneled down into this music. It’s a combination of his precocious love of machines and  noise; a maturing appreciation for the folk traditions of his country; a reluctant live performer; and an enigmatic interpretation of House and Techno music made by Black Americans. KiNK and Kirilik coalesces around all these different aspects, and there is no other artist quite like him, because of these compounding elements. Even at a time when DJ culture and electronic music have become quite interchangeable, Velchev is still able to stand out and deliver something truly unique to the landscape, and especially now with this latest endeavour Sofia.

“Maybe I’ve never brought anything brand new to the scene,” he considers, “but what I like about my approach to making music is that I’m more open to trying things and going out of my comfort zone.“ 

Later that night as he debuts the Kirilik project to a Norwegian audience, the dance floor is in agreement, raising their hands  in a predominant affirmation as we draw back the curtains on our guest. A coy smile streaks over Velchev’s face as he introduces the first strands of an archived modular synthesiser from one of the CDJs. The room is tenter hooks, people surging calmly towards the stage, and then suddenly without warning; a resolve and a bass-heavy kick-drum bursts into life with an approving “whoop” from the crowd.  

Beyond another new dawn with Ost & Kjex

Ost & Kjex were still riding high on the success of their critically acclaimed and celebrated 2010 album, Cajun Lunch when they delivered their next LP to the people at the Diynamic label around 2014. “With Cajun Lunch we established a sound for ourselves” remembers Petter Haavik, the Kjex in Ost & Kjex, sitting on the edge of his seat at Gamla bar in Oslo during our interview. They had just won the Spellemann award (Norway’s equivalent of the grammys) for Cajun Lunch and had started exporting their distinctive brand of music beyond Norway’s borders as they entered into making Freedom Wig. Popular records for the likes of Crosstown Rebels, an equally successful debut LP, and enjoying the esteemed company of artists like Solomun while playing places like Panorama Bar, had delivered Ost & Kjex into some of the most prominent musical circles in Europe and they felt comfortable and confident in their music when they sat down with the label to hand in their last full-length creation to the label.

“We were very happy,” says Petter through a smile behind a growing 5 o’clock shadow, “and we made a finished album, but then the label said it’s too much the same of your old style.” The label told Ost & Kjex to go back to the drawing board and re-approach the sound of the LP. “We had to kill your babies a little bit,” says Tore Gjedrem (aka Ost) picking up on the sentence that Petter left hanging in mid-air. It was “a rough meeting” remembers Petter with Tore simulating the figurative slap across the face they received from Stimming and co at Diynamic, but as they had to “re-think” the sound of the LP, they not only revitalised the sound of Ost & Kjex with the new record, but also came to something of a new chapter in their career and music. Stripping the record back to little more than a vocal and some key melodic hooks, they made “it rougher and harder,” with Stimming lending a “structured” hand in the final arrangement as Freedom Wig came to be.  

Armed with some new beats, while retaining that signature blend of blues and R&B in their electronic production processes, Freedom Wig favoured a more organic palette, with analogue synths, live instruments and voices contrasting neoprene House rhythms. Fusing disparate elements from the club dance floor while retaining their unique blend of black american music traditions, Ost & Kjex had all but completely severed ties with Cajun Lunch, with Freedom Wig ushering in yet another new era for the duo. ”Afterwards I was a lot more relaxed about my own material and letting things go,” admits Tore as he reclines in his chair, his voice, and his ageless face retreating into the shadows of a dark corner at Gamla bar.

With Freedom Wig done and after a much-needed rest, they turned their attention to the shorter format again and after releasing a few EPs around the LP they returned to Crosstown Rebelsin 2019 with a churning dance floor interpretation of Tina Turner’s Private Dancer with WHALESHARKATTACKS on vocals.

That track marked yet another shift for the sound of duo, focussing on the more “tracky” aspects of House music . “After the breakdown with album,” explains Petter they reconciled they need to “just listen to the Germans,” and  “keep it simpler and more tracky” and to that end they’ve got a few EPs lined up in 2020, including enough material for a whole EP with WHALESHARKATTACKS. They “knew how to rebuild” however because, it’s not the first time in the history of Petter and Tore’s creative relationship that they’ve felt the need to evolve. 

*Ost & Kjex play live our annual Frædag x DJ marathon 

Forged in metal

Petter and Tore grew up in Kolbotn, where they met at high school. Petter played guitar and Tore played bass and sung and the pair found they immediately “had something going” as they started making music together. What they were making in the beginning however was a far cry from the stuff they would be making later on as Ost & Kjex. Closer to a piercing scream than a cry, Death Metal was their calling card initially and bands like Napalm Death inspired a very fertile scene in the region with artists like Darkthrone and Petter and Tore’s Beyond Dawn rising to prominence through the emerging sound of Death Metal at the time.  

Beyond Dawn started out as a harsh, bare bones Metal band in the early nineties, but by the time of their grand finale, Frysh their sound had dramatically shifted, completely devoid of the washy guitars and punishing drums of their earliest releases as synthesisers, drum machines and sequencers had fully infiltrated their work. That last album, was almost “running parallel to the Ost & Kjex project” recalls Tore, but it wasn’t a mere sudden shift from one extreme to the other, but rather a gradual evolution as electronic music rose in popularity.

Tore and Petter had been following the development of electronic music closely through the Warp label and acts like Orbital, but a true epiphany moment came when they saw Surgeon in Liverpool on an impromptu whim. “That was a legendary evening” recalls Petter with a knowing smile. Petter was living in Liverpool at the time “going to school so we went there to record an album with Beyond Dawn,” continues Tore. They had a few nights out and one particular night stayed with them long after, even though the heady effects had long dissipated. Ever since, “Surgeon was also a big influence” on Tore and Petter.

Metal had also been necromancing with the electronic dark arts with key figures like Mick Harris (Napalm Death and Scorn) revolutionising the stilted sounds through electronic means. Beyond Dawn adapted with the era, but as the drummer’s role became infinitesimal, overshadowed by the rhythm machines and guitars constituted little more than “one note”  sampled to infinity “the other guys fell off a bit” according to Tore and from Beyond the Dawn rose a new dawn with Ost & Kjex.  

 

Playful  Transmissions

They had known they “had something by the first record” , the rather wordy “some, but not all  Cheese comes from the moon.” That record, released on Planet Noise in 2004 had put Ost & Kjex on the map in Norway, but it was when they “sent the first tracks to Crosstown Rebels and they called back” they had something special according to Petter. “When Crosstown Rebels called up, we knew the outside world was listening” reiterates Tore and by the time of Cajun Lunch their sound was truly established. 

They moved back to Kolbotn around that time for what Tore refers to as “family business” and although he believes the return “definitely” affected the sound of the future records they produced, Ost & Kjex have always been an island onto their own. While Oslo was establishing the sound of what would later become space disco through key figures like Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas, Tore and Petter never really felt any allegiances to what those artists were doing in the capital, even though they themselves were living in the capital at that time. “We were certainly not a part of that Oslo new disco scene,” impresses Tore. “We were more House than Disco, even though we love that stuff.” They felt more inclined to the “sound design” efforts coming out of Europe than the “groove approach” of Disco coming out of America. “We were more fans of Kompakt” adds Petter in a succinct summary.

But it wasn’t merely their sonic approach that set Ost & Kjex apart from their “big city” counterparts, but also their approach to songwriting. Where structure usually followed function in dance music, Ost & Kjex have always favoured form in music that has always drawn close parallels to pop music standards. Verse-chorus arrangements have followed their work consistently, with modulating melodic themes and developing harmonies not that uncommon in their work. It’s a style that particularly thrives in the album format especially on tracks like “The Baker’s Daughter” from Freedom Wig, but where I see something positive and unique, Petter is not so sure.  

“That’s our big problem” he says through a breathy laugh. “It must be in our genes.” It’s something perhaps ingrained in their DNA from the time of working in a more traditional band together, and I’m surprised to find that, for the most part, their goal is to make something more “tracky.” “We’ve tried for twenty years,” says Tore sniggering on the pulse of Petter’s laughter. It’s a perpetual need to develop, where a hook is only as good as the sum of the rest of the track. “You write it as you go,” says Tore of their creative process, “ producing it and programming it” to a point where the songs “live on their own.” “A lot of people don’t know this”  says Tore pulling in closer to the table, but “a lot of our songs are five years in the making.” 

They always strive for some sort of narrative with Tore’s vocals adding some “minimal textural compositions that goes with the music.” Lyrics that often contain some “strong liberal value” are presented in short lyrical vignettes as “small stories with a sense of black humour.” It exposes an inherent playfulness in the Ost  & Kjex sound that might have been missed if it had not been for the vocals. Playing off the music and informing it at the same time there’s a substantial weight behind these tracks, that emphasises the element of fun that’s transmitted on the dancing pulses of this machine music.

In perpetual motion to the next thing

“There is often a sense of joy to it” says Tore nonchalantly. That sense of Joy is only ever as strong as the sense exploration in their music however. In 2017, Ost & Kjex showed the extent of their imagination, as they delivered a concert while cooking a five-course meal out of Dattera til Hagen’s kitchen. Playful, and intriguing, coming together like a sonic happening orchestrated at a National Lampoon christmas dinner. It’s the “privilege of doing electronic music” according to Petter, an unbridled enthusiasm to explore the furthest reaches of their creativity, which they’ve always done in the established context of the Ost & Kjex sound. ”You don’t want to disappoint the fans,” explains Petter and while really experimental groups like Matmos and Matthew Herbert have also influenced their work, they’ve always managed to hone this in some perpetual pursuit of the next thing, without completely severing the ties to the roots of their sound and staying true to their fans. 

It’s why a record like Freedom Wig, although they had re-approach the sound of the record, maintains the essence of Ost & Kjex. Their rude-awakening at Diynamic has only strengthened their resolve as they’ve started entertaining “some high-flying thoughts about a concept album” for their next big project. In the meantime they are concentrating on a string of EPs coming out in 2020 and they re-launching their Snick Snack label. The label which had a brief stint in 2007, right before the massive record distribution crash of 2008, returned in 2019 with an Ost & Kjex collaborative EP, Olympia. Bugge Wesseltoft, Hanne Kolstø and Anne Lise Frøkedal joined the Norwegian tastemakers for the folksy electronica of the title track accompanied by the charming “Lucky Lips”. “She’s a motherfucker on Techno synth” exclaims Tore about Kolstø who often  joins them on stage in the past as part of the Ost & Kjex live band alongside WHALESHARKATTACKS. 

While they talk enthusiastically about their live show, Tore is quite excited about the next release from Snick Snack. It’s an EP of  “really nice party tunes” from close friends Trulz & Robin in an effort that Tore hopes will bring “some more recognition” to these musical “pioneers”. Snick & Snack will also reissue Trulz & Robin’s two LPs, Mechanized World and Kaosmatisk in this spirit of a label that the pair have established as an “opportunity to shed some light on the Norwegian scene.” At the same time it’s “a means to take control of your own music” for Tore. 

Whether that’s a result of their experiences with Freedom Wig or just the next phase of a perpetual evolution that has followed them through  their work, remains unclear, but whatever it is, it looks like 2020 is going to be an intriguing year for Ost & Kjex.

The brave ones with Maze & Masters

As club culture and -music continues to pick up momentum and gain popularity, it has exposed more of the countercultural origins of the scene and the music than ever before. Bolstered by the access of information at our fingertips and an increasing awareness of the original social inequalities that informed this culture, we’ve entered an enlightened age for the scene. 

Openly queer and transgender figures like Eris Drew and Octa Octa have become househould names, topping DJ charts at the end of 2019, while dance floors and clubs have started affecting serious policy changes to ensure all gendered nominations are welcome. It’s a very different situation to the scene that birthed club culture. Clandestine locations playing rhythmic music in the dead of night for young black and latino gay men and women looking for some slight escape from the contant persecution waiting outside the door, were dependent on secerecy to keep the wolves from the door. 

Today the landscape has not only changed, but as social awareness keeps growing, club culture is always going to be one liberal step ahead, and while the rest of the world is still coming to terms with these issues, gender barriers on the dance floor have been disolving more than ever before, especially in what were usually heteronormative mainsteram clubs. 

Leading the charge in this field is the event and party set  He.She.They, an organisation that ”is about trying to create spaces of inclusion and diversity where men, women, trans, non binary and agendered people can all feel welcome.” according to its founders Steven Braines and Sophia Kearney. Braines and Kearney have taken this a step further even, focussing on taking “over places that are traditionally more heteronormative crowd wise and queer them up.”

Events at leading, predominantly clubbing institutions like Pacha, Fabric, Ministry of Sound and Watergate, have been “about different types of people being welcomed in to spaces they otherwise are not often welcomed in,” according to Braines. “By making the performers/hosts queer, non-binary, trans for example and having more female DJs, trans, non binary DJs and people of colour behind the decks,” he elucidates over an email exchange “queer people and indeed intersections of all of them in a normally straight space it shows people that they are welcome.”

Braines and Kearney both work within the music industry’s upper echelons as agents for the likes of Tale of Us, Magda and Maya Jane Coles, which has put them “in a bit of a lucky position that venues have trusted us to come in and let us take over their spaces and done something weird and wonderful with them.“ Braines, a queer man and Kearny, a straight woman “we wanted to create dance music spaces where it felt comfortable for us and our friends.” and started throwing parties 2 years ago, with their singular vision to great success.

It’s not that we are queer night” stresses Braines “we just platform and prioritise people who deviate from the straight, white, male norm that dance culture has become even though it was originated musically from black, Latin and queer communities!” They do this with a cavalcade of DJs and performance artists in each location, picking some from their extensive roster, including the de facto He.She.They residents, Maze & Masters. 

Verity Mayes and Bryony Masters have been an integral part of the He.She.They “family” since its inception as the personification of the concept which Steven and Sophia says is “all about talented people who are nice people… the core of a great party. ” . The DJ duo have forged a unique sound in the booth together between playing to pure corporeal delights in dark and sweaty rooms. With sets that thrive on the instinctive pulses of the dance floor, Maze & Masters’ build their mixes from the beats up, focusing on the functional aspects of club music as stark elements rise from the deep. Warm rhodes chords and disembodied vocal snippets reach out intermittently between piercing beats ushered in on a primordial pulse.

They’ve transposed this sound from the DJ booth to the studio in original tracks and remixes for best part of the last decade, but they remain DJs at their core. While they’re sure to be making some future contributions to the upcoming He.She.They label – which Braines can confirm has signed Louisahhh as their first artist and whose “album comes out next year” – they plot their musical journeys largely through a pair of decks. It’s in that context that we receive Maze and Masters next week together with Kittin and Louisahhh as the He.She.They x Romjulsfestivalen event.

They’ll be playing upstairs after Deadswan and Vibekke Bruff, and with the event looming closer, we reached out to Verity  via email to find out more about Maze & Masters and their residency at He.She.They. 

How did you two meet?

We met in our hometown, Brighton, in the south of England. We crossed paths on many a dance floor and eventually ran away together to the big smoke. Brighton always has and always will have a special place in our hearts and having He.She.They. come to host the Brighton Pride Dance Top was a moment we will never forget.

Was club music a constant growing up and what were some of your earliest influences that set you on your individual paths as DJs?

Verity: My dad is a priest so it was more monks chanting for me – I’m sure that’s been an influence that comes out at some point of the morning, but it was discovering house music that had the biggest impact, although we play all kinds of underground journeys, 80s/90s original house and the message it originally brought always shines through.

Bryony: I was a little indie kid until I ended up underage in a crazy club night called Slinky’s which was in Bournemouth. It played mental hard house and jungle, and it was the first real clubbing experience I’d had and one I’ll never forget. I was obsessed with clubbing culture from that point onwards. Moving to Brighton set me onto the house scene, the early 2000s were a pinnacle time for that genre and I was totally swept up in the wave – there were some epic local DJ’s holding their own at that time and seeing them play every weekend set off the spark in me to pursue a career in DJing.

Where did your musical tastes converge and what inspired you to start DJing together at first?

We always had a similar vibe, even when we were playing solo gigs and people would often comment on that back in the day. We’d buzz off sending each other music, and eventually someone booked us our first set together at a terrace party in Brighton, the Sunday day parties were legendary back then. When we moved to London we cut our teeth playing an after-hours party in a tiny terrace room of Area in South London, where we really started to define the ‘M&M’ sound. Being in the smallest room in the club gave us the freedom to really experiment with what that was, taking people on a journey is something we’ve both always loved to do.

Did you instantly find a rapport and how did your musical tastes develop further as you started Djing more together?

When we joined forces we just had and still have the best time playing together and we completely inspire each other to this day. We’re best mates, we have a lot of fun playing together and we think that communicates to the clubbers, it always feels like a private party when we play together. We maintain our own sound and energy through our sets which create our eclectic style, where they meet is a special authentic place.

 

There have been some remixes, but I assume that DJing is a priority, or are there some plans to make a stride into production in the future?

We are originally DJs at heart but have also been teaching ourselves to produce, which can be challenging with two very hectic schedules. 2020 is the year for M&M productions – so watch this space!

What is it about DJing that keeps you intrigued and devoted to that kind of music?

It is always the music, finding and playing new music is an obsession for both of us, but it’s also the shared connection and energy of a dancefloor which is like nothing else in the world.  Music is definitely a home for us and our family is the community of people it organically brings together, sometimes for just one night, and sometimes for life. 

Your sets are quite versatile, but for me there’s a kind of deep approach that ties a red thread through the mixes I’ve heard. What usually draws both of you to a track?

We started playing regularly together in after-hours clubs, so deep house is part of our roots. The joy of being able to take people somewhere with the subtleties of that sound means it’s a genre we will always respect. It’s all about the energy of a track, for us it has to have a groove or something unusual that hooks you in. If it doesn’t make you move, it shouldn’t make your set.

And how might you move the other into a different direction through the mix?

We love a lot of different types of house and techno and tend to just read the crowd, so we don’t often know how a set will end up! There isn’t too much conscious thought involved, we get inspired by the music that the other plays. 

You’ve found a home in the queer/polysexual clubbing community, not just at He.She.They, but also Little Gay Brother. What was your introduction to this world and what attracted you to the scene as DJs?

Being queer ourselves, the community has always been a big part of our lives. We’ve always been drawn to that insatiable energy of a wild queer party, there’s really nothing that compares to it to be honest. It’s really important to us that we can represent us and our queer family, and being able to spread the message of equality and inclusivity on a global scale through music is an honour, we are very thankful to He.She.They. and our other residency Little Gay Brother for giving us the opportunities to do so.

How did you end up being residents at He.She.They?

We have always hugely respected The Weird and The Wonderful and our friendship developed both in London’s and in various tents and fields at Secret Garden Party; then to Ibiza where we shared an office. We were touched to be asked to part of the journey from the beginning and that Sophia and Steven saw a resonance in our ethos and liked what we do, it’s been incredible to see the message spread worldwide. Being able to play and see the positive reaction to the party at such respected venues as Ministry & Fabric London, Watergate Berlin and Pacha Ibiza has been emotional, we feel very much part of the team.

And what’s the driving ideology behind the concept and how did it resonate with what you were doing as DJs?

Living in the queer community, activism is part of your life, everyone has had to fight for something whether its the courage to come out, or support brave friends on their personal journeys. He.She.They’s ideology totally resonates with this, and therefore with who we are as people. 

We have been lucky enough to exist both within the queer scene and also the wider electronic music scene. You often find that the two worlds didn’t really converge, and they SHOULD, because there is some incredible talent not being given the chance to live their potential! Steven & Sophia took He.She.They. to the world to give everyone a shared opportunity and the world fucking loved it, which only looks to increase and spread the message further in 2020.

How do your sets at He.She.They differ from the stuff you usually play and are there any tracks that you would consider He.She.They anthems?

There’s a mad kind of energy, a fierceness, that comes through in us both when preparing for He.She.They. sets; which comes from a sense of freedom, there isn’t a mould you have to fit into which is very refreshing. He.She.They. celebrates experimentation and pushing boundaries. 

Here’s a track that sticks out to us both from our first HST gig, dubspeeka & Visionz “Floorshow” (Bodyjack’s DEXT VIP).

It’s a travelling event series, so the audiences must differ between parties. How do you guys accommodate these differences in terms of your sets and the party?

One of the uniting threads that we have found throughout every HST party is that everyone really just wants to be free to party and are really open-minded to how that may occur! It’s like everyone has found a place to exist as themselves whether they knew they needed that or not, so although there is a focus on freedom of expression, it’s also kind of about that not mattering, as the crowd is super diverse but ultimately all just there to dance no matter who you are or what you play. 

What are your expectations for the upcoming event at Jaeger?

Well, Louisahhh and Miss Kittin are playing, so we’re expecting Oslos foundations to be shaken to their very core! We’re expecting the unexpected, as what comes out when people are given the space to express is a very weird and wonderful thing! But above all, quality, love, respect, and a lot of stomping.

We look forward to having you here, Verity and Bryony. 

 

Redefining Folkemusikk with Lakeshouse

Surveying the spatial outskirts of Norwegian Disco in a potent fusion excavating elements from balearic beat to Jazz, Lakeshouse arrived on Paper Recordings  at the beginning of this year with the Firkanta EP. The four-piece from Norway, consisting of Espen, Bjørnar, Endre and Andreas had been making music together or independently since their youth in one form or another. They first came together under the BOKA pseudonym with a happy infusion of Pop and Disco catering to the more ebullient corners of the dance floor on infectious melodies and effervescent grooves. 

They eventually left the BOKA project to one side only to re-form as Lakeshouse, honing their sound further to the club with Firkanta, establishing the Lakeshouse sound in no uncertain terms with a record DJ Mag called “great…bonkers Norwegian language garage.” In November this year they followed it up with the equally “strong” Folkemusikk, refining and cementing the Lakeshouse concept with a record that ties something of a conceptual thread between the tracks. 

There’s a strong organic element to Folkemusikk coming together under the shadow of the mountain that adorns the cover. From the airy vocals of “Lov” to the staccato keys of “Papaya” it relays that human connection between the dance floor and this largely machine-made music. From the downtempo “Lov” to the energetic “Folkemusikk,” encouraging beat and bass arrangements underpin these tracks, which even under the slower tempos of “Lov” find an empathetic synchronicity with the listener. Lyrics ponder themes of love and culture through the abstract gaze of an artist’s viewfinder, with the music providing the visceral counterpoint. 

They’ll be bringing the record and a few others along to the official launch of Folkemusikk at Jaeger, so we shot over a few questions over to band to ask about the music, the story behind the cover, the origins of the band and their upcoming DJset at Jaeger.

How did you guys meet and what encouraged you to start a band together? 

The four of us met very young, some of us as early as kindergarten in Nordfjordeid, Sogn og Fjordane. It’s a small, picturesque place. We listened to weird shit and weren’t into sports, so that comes with its social consequences in a place like that. Me and Bjørnar started messing around in Fruity Loops and Reason when we were around 12, and then in high school we all came together for various projects. There was a black metal band, a cosmic disco group, a prog rock band, an electro-jam band, but none of them very serious. When we moved to Bergen in our early 20s we founded BOKA and started being a bit more serious about this music thing. 

What is the connection between this project and BOKA and how has it evolved or diverged into Lakeshouse? 

The connection is we’re basically the same members as BOKA, but we needed to do something different and we needed to do something that would allow us to work together despite living in different cities now, ever since Espen moved to Malmö. We sort of realised that we’ve gotten much better at club music and could do more. 

Where do your individual musical influences crossover and how did that inform what you wanted to do with Lakeshouse? 

Lakeshouse is our attempt at simplicity, even though compared to most underground club producers we probably sound pretty crazy. Three of us are musical omnivores with a penchant for dance music, while Andreas is the same but with a penchant for jazz. We rarely do anything by the book and want to create our own definitions, not be defined. Lakeshouse is us balancing our need to experiment with our love for dance music. 

What’s the story behind the name and why the possessive form “lake’s”? 

“Lakehouse” would be a pretty boring name, don’t you agree? :P But in all seriousness, it actually came from a cosmic disco track Bjørnar did called “Live at Lake’s House”. He had this idea of a place the track was recorded live, since it sounded kinda live-ish, like it could be a Lakeshouse-set at some mystery club. Where is this place, and who the hell is this Lake-guy? So we took that and made it Lakeshouse. 

Now that Espen lives in Malmö and you live in Oslo, how did the music come together with the band spread out like that? 

Well, we miss him a lot! Music-wise there’s a lot of skype-meetings, messenger chats, phone conversations, sending projects back and forth and such. We try to keep each other involved as much as possible. Sometimes we just make stuff on our own, and give each other feedback and maybe improvise something over it. The only thing that has become a struggle is anything live-related, since we can’t rehearse together. 

How do you divide the duties between the band? 

Generally, Espen, Bjørnar and Endre do the production and songwriting, and then Andreas might come along and lay down some trombone. Since he’s much more a jazzhead than a clubber he’ll usually have some opinions on the chords or arrangements that help make things more musical. And for the most part Endre does the final mix, with a lot of help from the other guys. Since Bjørnar is also a visual artist he does all of the graphics, videos etc. We do everything except the mastering. We like to keep it all inside the BOKA Recordings crew. 

Folkemusikk is your second EP for Paper Recordings. How did you arrive on the UK label and how has the label and its discography informed what you do if at all? 

In 2016 we released a track called “Brødrene Hermanos” as BOKA. It was a pretty cosmic affair, and somehow Paper got wind of it and asked us if they could put it on their Trash The Wax series. They dug it and we felt like they understood us better than other labels we’d dealt with before. This was right around the time we were becoming clubbier anyway, so when we had Firkanta EP ready they were the first people we contacted. 

Ben Davis has always been a huge supporter of the Norwegian music scene, but he’s also been a very prominent figure in Manchester. What kind of affinity is there between these two scenes from Lakeshouse’s experience? 

We grew up in the 90s with Faithless, Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers on Topp 20. UK music has been hugely important to us and Norway in general. Manchester has been a staple club-town since the 80s, but the overall willingness to push things forward seems like a British tradition overall. Paper is one of the many labels that don’t mind taking risks if they like the music. We recently read an interview with Ben where he joked about not being able to resist releasing a record of a guy in South Africa with 30 followers on Soundcloud! And Paper made an entire documentary on the nordic disco scene. It seems the UK influence is paying off for both parties. 

Getting onto Folkemusikk. Tell me how that EP came together and what were some of the ideas that informed it. What were some of your inspirations (in music and beyond) for the sounds of the record? 

We started out with a couple tracks that felt like they belonged together. ‘NRK’ and ‘Folkemusikk’ both have a nostalgic and surreal vibe to them. They made us think of the old video archive of the Norwegian broadcasting corporation, which is tasked with documenting Norway’s culture and history. The lyrics for ‘Folkemusikk’ go really well with that theme, and the vocal sample on ‘NRK’ sounds like a mangled radio jingle. Then the rest kind of just fell into place. Varied, but with a conceptual backdrop. 

The Lakeshouse sound that you established on Firkanta is still prevalent, but there seems to be something slightly more organic, at times a little psychedelic about this record. How did you approach this record any differently than the last? 

Well, ‘Firkanta’ is called Firkanta for a reason. On Firkanta we focused on presenting different sides to our sound, like the proto-Lindstrøm space disco of the title track, or the garage-ish swing of Ambulanse. Folkemusikk is more conceptual. If one track had ambient elements then the other tracks needed some too. All the tiny details, the textural, almost tactile sounds, they’re all meant to match the feeling or the message. NRK sounds a bit like the fever dream of a child listening to the radio. Papaya is very Ibiza and beachy, while Folkemusikk is urban pitted against folk music and a Hardanger-fiddle. There’s even a lonely owl and a ticking clock on Lov. 

How did the writing process work on this record and where did the inspiration for the lyrics come from? 

The title track is a nod to the history of dance music. Dance music is ancient, and some of it we’ve arbitrarily labeled “folk music”. It seems modern club music is really just an extension of a very old idea. The chorus is a chant; “this is folk music”, sung in a dialect that has traditional connotations. It also kind of sounds like “this is fuck music”, which isn’t too far off if you think about it. In the verse a guy is sad that someone told him “music died a hundred years ago today”, like there’s a specific date someone decided music went wrong. It didn’t! It just changed. 

Lov was of course inspired by a breakup. It’s during a break up you might wonder why we all keep trying when it usually ends with heartbreak. The title is both the Norwegian word for ‘allowed’ and ‘law’, almost like the song is taking the piss out of the concept of love. And there’s no linear story, more an abstraction of the feelings around it. We really love Air and the way they used a looped, robotic voice on ‘Run’, so we tried to mimic that on this track, underlining the abstract and binary lyrics. “One/Two, me/you”. Maybe it’s a story of a robot programmed to love, running the same software over and over? In a way it’s an existential song more than a love ballad. 

There’s something about the mountain on the cover, Endre told me. What is it about that image in the artwork that’s so significant about this record and how did it inform the music

Having grown up surrounded by nature we’re still marked by it. There’s something mysterious and profound about mountains. Now that we live in Oslo we kind of have to make do with the nature we have here, which is not as spectacular but still nice. We spend more time in the woods than in the club. Back in Nordfjordeid we had many secret spots we’d go to just to be alone as friends, one of them was by a lake that few people knew about. It’s kinda funny cos the picture used for the cover was actually taken on a trip Bjørnar had to Albania, but it still looks as majestic and “nasjonalromantisk” as a Norwegian painting from the 1800s. There’s even a troll-like face in the rocks. Both the videos for Nrk and Lov were partly filmed by a lake outside Oslo. 

And now for the plug… it’s the official Oslo release of the record; what is happening on the night to celebrate the record? 

Before we officially start DJing we’ll have a little mingling sesh, listen to the record in full and also show the two videos Bjørnar made. We also have a bunch of T-shirts from Firkanta EP that we’ll be selling. And anyone with a healthy interest in music should get down to our DJ set later, cos it will be epic and eclectic! 

I thought you might be tempted to play live. Why the DJ set? 

Like we talked about it’s hard to get live sets going when we’re spread out. We’ve barely all been in the same room for most of the process of this EP. We’ve also been wanting to do more DJing in general, so for that purpose this is a step in that direction. 

And how do you hope to relay the sound of the record through the set? 

Of course we’ll play as many Lakeshouse tracks as we can muster, including our remixes and other goodies, but it’s also just something that will happen organically through the selection. We want people to dance, but we also like championing wilder records, blending party vibes with something personal, kind of like how our music sounds. 

That’s all the questions, but is there anything you’d like to add? 

Nothing other than a big thank you to both Olanskii for booking us to Jæger, and to you for asking us such great questions! 

The cut with Filter Musikk

We’re on the precipice of a new decade and we’ve fallen into archetypal tropes where Techno, House et al is currently being watered-down to revisionist versions of itself in a digital realm. Distilled from the eccentricities of their ancestral roots, we’re swimming in the languid miasma of ubiquity entrenched in formulaic chasms. Feedback loops, droning along in consistent noise, saturate dance floors in monotonous white noise, while DJ faces smile at you from the incandescent glow of a handheld LCD screen. 

We’re living in a virtual reality, a dance floor locked in an eternal struggle to free itself from the banality of the outside world, carried on the invisible wings of 4G bandwidth. Our anecdote? A complete hedonistic escape from the trivialities of everyday life. It lies beyond a glass door at an end of Skippergta and it’s called Filter Musikk. 

Unencumbered by overzealous hype and free from the tyrannical insistence of social media, it’s here where music lives on in objective terms with the listener. Grooves cut into plastic discs, sheathed in cardboard cloaks that relay only the most necessary vignettes of information, line shelves and boxes; impossible hierarchies immediately subverted in the mere flick of a finger. 

Carefully curated by proprietor and Oslo DJ icon, Roland Lifjell, the selections that grace the hallowed shelves, stand out above the din with glorious indifference in a format that time forgot. Ironically it’s in these arcane discs that we’ve found the only way forward into the next decade, the last true avant garde in a scene slowly being consumed by conservative trends being dictated by big business and uninformed social opinions determined by mystical algorithms. 

This is where we’ll make our stand in our perpetual drive to explore new musical worlds and unearth future classics overlooked in their time, but still striving to soundtrack an improbable future. Stepping into the next decade, these are the records and this is the place that lies beyond the schism of the mundane and we’ll step boldly beyond its threshold yet again in the pursuit of the new, enticing and the innovative. This is the Cut with Filter Musikk. 

*The cut with Filter Musikk goes live tonight aJaeger as a vinyl messe and club concept.

 

Adlas – Currents (Answer Code Request / ACR505) – 12″

It appears like a forgotten memory from the beginning of the year, when 2019 was still in its infancy. Seems like it was only yesterday we were singing Adlas’ praises on his debut for Answer Code Request. The mysterious artist had immediately caught our attention, pursuing a distinctive brand of Techno, freed from the shackles of the consistent beat of a DJ tool. We thought it could have been a mere isolated event, a fleeting artistic flourish from some established artist, operating under a pseudonym. That was March however and this month Adlas has solidified his sound in 2019 with a sophomore effort “Currents,” confirming his allegiances to Answer Code Request in the process.

Adlas’ music continues to thrive in a stark minimalist landscape, with rhythms emboldened by bass carving deep trenches through incandescent atmospheres, sparkling with the erratic chirps and clattering of biomechanical sonic insects hovering at the fringes of the otherworldly soundscape. Adlas finds some elusive bridge between striking experimentalism and dance floor functionality on this record. Using the unwavering foundations of beat-driven dance music, Adlas saves an experimental component for the accompanying textures, with raspy metallic creations and irreverent rhythmic constructions occupying the fringes of his music.

It’s in the skipping rhythmic arrangements that Adlas’ music immediately appeals, using kick and snare arrangements lifted from bass-inclined genres and transposing it to Techno. On the particularly tumultuous “Emergence,” piercing kick drums jut out from the center of the track with an onerous corporeal pursuit as noisy atmospheres clamour to the progression of the track. 

But it’s very much a record of two sides, with the A-side honing that stark, bass-infused minimalism to a fine degree on the dance floor, while the B-side retreats into evocative melodies. At its most extreme the record touches on the fringes of Trance with “Spherical Wave” which is both at odds with the rest of the record, trapped in some unflinching 4-4 rhythm and yet also offers some dynamism as the artist ventures slightly from the sound he’s covered over most of his first two records.

It leaves a tantalising musical allure that will undoubtedly follow the artist into his next record, and the next decade.

 

Pretty Sneaky – 5 (Pretty Sneaky) 12″

Synthesised “found sounds“ from parallel dimensions transmitted on the frequencies of Dub rhythms and records that seem to want to draw no line of separation between genres, Pretty Sneaky is a white label that has been intriguing since it first emerged in 2017. We thought the mysterious first record was an elusive one-off, never to be repeated, but somehow the label is enjoying it’s fifth release and the third release of this year. 

With only a quirky stamp signifying its alliances a Pretty Sneaky record holds absolutely no information about its origins, but the dub-infused Techno that adorns each record hints at the UK. Pretty Sneaky 5 pursues a similar sonic aesthetic set forth since the first record suggesting a single artist or group behind the stark minimalist polyrhythmic constructions. 

Percussive rhythms come together like Steve Reich’s clapping music, abstract and aloof, but congregating around the hefty sub-bass undulations that anchor the record in the realm of dub music. Only the electronic squeaks of abstract atmospheres of the A-side and the impulsive conjurings from some counterfeit electronic organ on the B-side, break the monotony of a repetitive loop that dominates both sides.

It’s an unpretentious record that asks nothing more than to be played through an almighty sound system. 

 

Lost Trax – Surface Treated (Delsin / 139dsr)

It was like Lost Trax was created to be on Delsin. The anonymous artist/artists behind the Lost Trax name have been putting out records on the likes of Shipwrec and Tabernacle records for a while, but it’s particularly on Delsin where they seem to have found some congruity between their sound and the sound of the label, like they’ve always been destined to be on there. 

Lost Trax’ music is built on those Dutch DIY traditions that took root in labels like Bunker and through artists like Legowelt, and while the records for Shipwrec and Frustrated Funk have upheld those traditions, their records for Delsin seeks to contemporize these traditions for the next generation. 

Surface Treated finds Lost Trax funnel early Electro and Techno into the deepest recesses of club music. Tracing a trajectory to the dance floor between submerged, rolling basslines and ethereal melodies, Lost Trax expose a visceral subtext in their music on this release. It’s only ever on “Still”, the ultimate track on the EP that Lost Trax relay some of that classic Electro that dominates the their early releases, but for the most part they favour a softer edge in their music, which is particularly effective on opener  “De Laye” and the striking “Interstate”.

There’s a progressive nature to both these tracks with an appealing melodic component, which on “Interstate” travels along some of the prettiest harmonies we’ve heard on a record of this nature for some time. Travelling on a deep, yet effervescent bass-line a simple lead line bounces between wispy pads, congregating around a deceiving, up-beat pulse. It marks a highlight for a record that is its own zenith in an already outstanding discography. 

 

Nick Klein – Jesus Take The Wheel (Viewlexx) – 12″ 

Nick Klein is always “hoping to conjure an aural space of sanctuary and escapism” in his music, with a sanctuary embraced in the warm bowels of a dystopian machine-made romance. The American artist had arrived onto the scene through America’s ever-intriguing cassette scene, but by the time he arrived on the vinyl format through Unknown Precepts with “Failed Devotee” his music evolved slightly from the DIY culture that cassette culture has always inspired.

Releases for L.I.E.S and BANK followed as Klein’s music found the darker corners of dance floors around the world, contorting with the salacious desires of machine-made beat music. It’s no surprise that a label like Viewlexx beckoned and that Nick Klein answered the call, but on this occasion some compromise seems to have had to occur as Nick Klein moved into more focussed club music territory.

Stripping his sound back from the bolder synthwave and 80’s EBM traditions that dominated his earlier work, Nick Klein appears to try to accommodate an elusive dance floor on “Jesus Take the Wheel.” Repetitive beat phrases coaxed from distorting machines develop very little throughout the four tracks on the record with perfunctory design underpinning all these tracks. 

Klein’s darker textures, and noise-y production will find favour with the more provocative corners of club music, and the slow tempos at which these tracks march through the record is charged with  seductive rhythmic designs. It’s only the last track, that he breaks with the rest of the record and exposes some of those cassette DIY roots, as distorting guitars and saturated synthetic atmospheres converge on “Can’t Be A Candle”; ambient music as relayed from dystopian vision of the future.  

 

Various – Club People Vol.1 (Anopolis) 12″ 

Somebody recently said that Athens will be the new Berlin, and while this kind of postulation usually has us rolling our eyes– just leave Athens to be Athens, why do we need another Berlin – there is certainly some relationship between social conditions and music. It’s usually under some kind of duress that societies are at their most creative. 

After the financial fallout of a crippling debt crisis, expounded by a humanitarian crisis that the rest of Europe simply lumped on the shoulders of the poor country, Athens has seen better days, to say the least. In the midst of this, a burgeoning Techno scene had begun to flourish as the genre reached the incredibly popular heights. Let’s just get this straight however, Greece had always had an electronic music scene, but more recently an underground component to the mainstream has come to the fore allowing room for a new label like Anopolis to come into existence.

On the second release from the label, Anopolis introduces four new artists, each proffering a different interpretation of club music in one versatile compilation. Foukodian Rhythms, lakovos, Dim DJ and Drum Machine plot a course through the vast expanse of club music with elements of breakbeat, acid, House and Techno converging on the fringes of lo-fi techniques. 

At times, like the 4-minute drop on Foukodian Rhythms’ “Big Wednesday,”  the tracks are in need of some refinement, but it’s this youthful exuberance prevalent throughout, that holds a finger up to the uber-produced establishment currently saturating European clubs. At its most effective Grecian “old guard” Dim DJ, brings the necessary experience and practised skills to the compilation with the entrancing psychedelia of “Acid-O-Rama” while maintaining that DIY machine music aesthetic. 

On the other end of the spectrum, lakovos offers a brooding, stomping Techno cut that could be quite at home in some vacuous underground concrete liar, which alongside the other tracks cover the vast spectrum of Techno music on this release and a fine representation of electronic club music coming out of Greece at the moment. 

That’s my bag with Osunlade

When Osunlade released his debut LP, Paradigm, it moved through House music echelons like a breath of fresh air. At a time when House music was moving into charts and MTV, he took the genre back to its roots and beyond with an album that was culmination of his ancestral roots and his depth-defying skills as a producer. Osunlade stepped out of the majors and into the underground, shaking off the commodified business of music to get back at the soul and funk  that originally informed House music. 

His record debuted on Soul Jazz, and set a precedent that he took into creating his own label, Yoruba which has perpetuated a musical ideology that has remained unwavering through Osunlade’s discography, up to his latest LP Aché. Aché has been a realisation of a dream for Osunlade, which has all the makings of a great pop record on par with something like Sign O’ the Times, because of the kaleidoscopic musical flavours that imbues the record.

Like every Osunlade record, Aché channels something ancient through the music, something that extends beyond roots music and is contained in the spirit of the artist. There is often an organic element to Osunlade’s music imparted by the physical act of playing his instruments and on Aché it’s honed to a fine finesse with the appearance of an orchestra and Osunlade’s voice on this record. More Soul than House music, Aché  is a record that has all the qualities of a timeless record with elements of Jazz, Soul and to some fine degree House music, channelled through the Osunlade’s unique artistic voice. 

It was in the shadow of the release of this record that Osunlade arrived at Jaeger for a set during our annual Oslo World festival. Living between Santorini and St. Louis and with an extended stay in Japan after his set at Jaeger, Osunlade is the definition of a worldly artist, and  when he arrived in our booth it was all business for the US artists and DJ. With his sights set on the dance floor, we hit the red record button and then reached out to Osunalde when he landed in Japan to ask a few more questions about the set, his unique touring lifestyle and of course Aché.

You’re constantly on the road at the moment, staying in one country or region for extended periods at a time. What kind of effect (past the logistical) does this kind of lifestyle have on your music? 

It has a major impact on my music as music is simply a diary of my life, my experiences, the places, people and moments are what creates the stories I tell musically.

You tend to record your music in set locations, so how do you feel your music migrates between your studios in Santorini compared to St. Louis?  

It’s totally different as both are specifically different set ups. Santorini is definitely a quieter setting so the music tends to be a bit more open in approach as there is much more room to breathe whereas St. Louis is more an insular creative space. I lock myself in the studio there and tend to create more content as my studio there’s is a more a cave and is underground so I have no concept of time or the outside world.

You were raised in St Louis, and Missouri has an incredible music history. How much did that history spur you on in learning to play the piano when you were seven and eventually developing your own voice as an artist?

It was and is everything! My influences are directly from the funk, soul and jazz I heard growing up. St. Louis is like mostly midwestern cities in the fact that musically we heard a multitude of sounds that may not have reached the major cities in the country so our influences are wider I think. 

I believe Prince was also a huge influence. What era Prince was this and what was it about the purple one that you developed into your own style?

Prince is in fact my biggest influence to date. I first heard “Soft & Wet” in 78. Even at an early age id been into music yet had never heard a sound like his. This overall is the impact. His ability to alter all the sounds I loved and make them his own. That appeal is my approach. To never copy and to create a style of my own.

On your last LP, Ache’ you seem to pay special homage to him. Some of the vocals are very Prince-esque and the overall sound has that Paisley-park-funk to it, while I can’t help but see Prince in the artwork. What was Prince’s influence on this LP specifically?

Not at all, I never think or have any artist in mind when creating. My voice is what it is and is catered around all the funk bands of my era, not only Prince. Growing up in bands in the Midwest was about funk so the style is bigger than just one artist. The fact that most only know my house material (which is the lesser of my work) tend to hear only part of the full experience of my sound. St. Louis has its own funk and I claim that my music is St. Louis funk, not Minneapolis at all. But this is something you’d need to experience as a whole to understand.

When did House music first capture your attention and how have you always strived to interpret the music through your own history?

I spent most of my summers in Chicago growing up so house was also a part of my upbringing. My take on house was funk soul music at a faster rhythmic pace, nothing more. If u slow them down you will hear a soul record first. It all starts with the song and for me it’s funk first.

You followed a very unorthodox route into House music compared to your contemporaries, starting out on the business end of the music industry, which you eventually left, to strike out on your own as an artist. What was the catalyst for this?

It’s simple, I hated the music business and the music I created during that period as it wasn’t from my heart. I needed a vehicle to create what was true to me. 

What sort of work were doing for the majors… were you already producing at that point?

I was producing for several major labels.

The industry has never really been a nurturing environment for artistry, but what did you take from the experience into your solo career?

Although not great for artists, the industry back then was a great way to learn the business. How to nurture artists and most importantly the art of A&R. My label is different to most as I to this day follow the model of what I learned from the majors. I mentor every artist I sign and it normally takes years before I release anything on any artist. Whereas most labels simply sign things for the hit or name factor and usually the music is original or special. 

I think for most, including myself, your debut LP Paradigm is enshrined in House music lore as a classic today. What is you relationship with those early pieces today?

I still love them today! I think at the time this was a special event as again there’s was nothing out that sounded like me. As I’ve grown older, of course these are less exciting as my tastes have evolved. 

You continue to utilize the same tools and practises to make music today, but there’s still an evolution in your work between Paradigm and Ache’. How have you perceived the development of  your artistic voice through your career?

Absolutely! This is my aim when writing anything. The tool change always which is what brings the evolution however, the practices stay the same. The approach is to never repeat myself.

I know you don’t watch television and don’t pay much attention to any popular media. Where do you find your inspiration beyond music?

I watch quite a shit ton of movies, mostly rare or obscure as my travels keep me alone it’s entertaining and educational. I especially dig biopics or anything related to previous artists be it music or otherwise. 

Each album seems to contain its own musical universe, both in concept and sound. Is this something that you always do on a conscious level like you did on Pyrography LP?

100% I make music for the time when I am no longer. As artists we never receive our full due until we die. Something about humans tend to care more after life. I guess it’s  because we realize there will be no more. I’d like what I left behind to be a full and complete story of my journey so every song, every ep, every album hasn’t to be its own chapter per say. 

I’ve read that Ache’ is the album you dreamt of making. In what sense was that album a fulfilment of a dream?

Mostly because I was able to afford an orchestra. When working for the majors I was blessed with this for other artists but it’s such a daunting effort financially so when I set out to commit to saving for this album it was a serious effort. One that took 7 years to complete. It’s definitely my mostly complete work as an artist. It’s closest to where I am today.

I’ve always considered you an album artist (even though you’ve been prolific in releasing EPs and 12 inches too). What is it about the LP format that you personally prefer?

I like the story. Again each album is another’s chapter. I can go back and relive exactly where I was, who I was in love with etc.

On a side note, will there be a physical release for Ache’?

Yes the vinyl will release in January as well. There will be a limited colored vinyl box set with extras like a certified print of the cover art which is one of my collages.

All you’re albums have a very organic sound to them, most likely due to the fact that you play your instruments. But listening back to your DJ set from Jaeger, you seem to favour a more mechanical sound. How do approach music differently in the context of a set and how do you relay something of Osunlade the artist through your sets?

They seem two totally different things to me. Djing is a skill and not a talent which is why there are so many today. For me it’s about making people dance and educating simultaneously. Also in today’s house the more electronic stuff is simply more interesting. I hate nothing more than listening to an artists catalog and it’s basically the same song over again. 

What did you think of the experience at Jaeger?

I enjoyed Jaeger immensely! The sound was great and everyone there was lovely As well as Oslo. I must return soon :) 

As a DJ that travels so much and plays all over the world, you must be aware of a kind of movement in the scene that has shifted towards industry more than community. What are your thoughts on the scene as it is today and what keeps you motivated to keep playing to audiences out there?

I hate the scene as a whole as it’s white shit and not about music whatsoever. I stay away from all the hype bullshit. As well I normally never listen to house music until I’m going for a tour. It can be quite boring for me. Jazz, Funk, Soul and World music are my bag. I need real music with real musicians playing real instruments to excite me. If it’s something I can achieve or create I’m not interested at all. 

What I’ve always admired about your music and again on Ache’ is how you are able to make music that is completely out of step with any zeitgeist, and yet somehow it thrives beyond it’s time. How are you able to maintain that distance between what’s happening around you and still find some form of music that speaks to contemporary ears?  

I guess that’s just my instinct and clarity of self. I kinda live in my own world really so as music as I’m in the world I’m sort of an alien in truth. St Louis and Santorini are both grounding for me and helps me stay in my fantasy land internally.

Ache’ was the first LP for you since 2014, and I imagine you took your time with that one to specifically get that theme across. So what of this LP will inform you future project/projects?

I’ve already another album compete. I write a lot and actually ache was 17 songsmith to begin so some of those are on the next one with newer things. Who knows maybe they will never be heard as I tend to remove songs frequent depending on what an album needs or turns out to be. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. We look forward to having you back at Jaeger sometime soon and safe travels. 

The dance floor is the stage with Safira

*Photos by Cecilie Andrea Torp & Victoria Therese

Safira Olsen is breaking the mould in a scene currently dominated by commodity over substance. She is a DJ who arrived out of relative obscurity four years ago and has used her sudden rise in popularity in the booth to facilitate a scene around her through her Extra Delicious events in Oslo.

Safira stepped into a DJ booth for the first time at a Mandagsklubben four years ago and has garnered a very intense and dedicated following ever since. She always brings a crowd wherever she plays without much effort and it’s all down to the community she’s built around her and her Extra Delicious concept. 

Born to a Palestinian father and a Norwegian mother, Safira has followed a very different route to the booth from her peers with little prior experience in electronic music before the Dj bug bit. From her very first set, her star rose quickly beyond Oslo and she has appeared in far off destinations like Sri Lanka and more recently Australia, while cultivating a following back home in Oslo.

In 2019 Extra Delicious first appeared on Oslo’s Musikkfest programme, unheard of for an event series in their first year, but the success of that first event and the Extra Delicious events have only strengthened Safira’s resolve in building community from those foundations. “I want to bring more culture and performance artists,” she tells me about her desires in a  candid backstage chat before her last appearance at Jaeger for Oslo World.

“It’s really nice to help people,” she tells me in the context of Extra Delicious’ cultural project and next evolution as a label. “There are so many people sitting at home that are really good at their art art form, but perhaps they don’t have the connection,” and Safira is determined to give these people a platform. She’s s chosen Cubicle and F.Angst aka Sortna to eventually inaugurate the label, but first there’s a dance floor beckoning for her and SAMA’.

The early set is a “different vibe” to what Safira is used to playing, but she has “certain tracks that will warm up a new audience to the darker sounds” she usually plays and which should feed into SAMA’s set quite easily. “Now I feel that I can take my time to build up the audience,” she continues “and it doesn’t have to be full on all the time.” 

The event at Jaeger is her penultimate event before she heads out to Australia for the winter season, and with only a few days remaining in Oslo, we slip into the the chesterfield couch in the backstage at Jaeger to talk about her upcoming trip, Extra Delicious and how she’s established her presence on the DJ circuit.

Why are you going to Australia for an extended period.

It’s a holiday/work trip. I’m just going there with no expectations and hope to get some gigs. I always end up meeting the right people. I want to go to India and Thailand too, because I have a lot of connections there. 

When I read you’re biography it also said that you play a lot in Sri Lanka. What’s the connection with Sri Lanka?

It was two years ago during winter. When you work during the night as a DJ in Norway, you get a little depressed, because you’re sleeping during the day. So I went to Sri Lanka, and I promised myself not to check out any music or the scene, and I ended up playing everywhere and meeting so many people, so it was the most musical journey I’ve ever had. I realised it wasn’t the music that left me uninspired, it was just being stuck in the same scene. 

The year after that I started playing at a festival in Sri Lanka. I ended up playing after one of my favourite artists, Grouch and one of his band mates invited me to stay on his couch in Melbourne. Everything ended up coming together on this journey to where I am now. 

Just from DJing and interacting with people?

It feels like I am on such a good vibe with this. If you try too hard, I don’t think you’ll get it. You just have to do your own thing. You just have to enjoy what you do and the right things will come to you. 

In terms of getting gigs, you are not that active on social media either.

No. I want people to actually want my performance. I don’t want to have to prove myself, because I have a little stage fright. 

When I had my first gig, I was actually forced to do it by André Bravo. It was a Monday at Jaeger. I promised myself that I would never play out in a club before this; I was only doing this for myself and I wouldn’t play out in front of people I didn’t know. Then, I realised when you’re a DJ you’re not actually on a stage, you make the stage for someone else. The dance floor is the stage. 

But you didn’t just step into the booth at that Mandagsklubben right, you had to be DJing before, right?

I had a friend and neighbour, Zoran who had a pair of decks and let me practise after I tried  it out at some after-parties. He just let me do my own thing and only stopped me if it got really bad. I’m really grateful for his patience. He’s not in the club scene at all, just a music lover with a good system at home. 

Then I met Bravo, and he definitely saw something in me and I’m forever thankful that he almost forced me to have my first gig. I was always on the dance floor before bringing people out to dance and now I can give people the same experience. 

From the first time your name cropped up, there always seemed to be a bit of buzz around the nights you played and that has been about you bringing the crowd out. Did you have to work at that?

I’m a people-person. I had a crowd even before I was Djing. I was always getting my friends together to see other DJ friends of mine. Of course, when I first started DJing and reached out to my friends because I was so nervous, they all came and there were hundreds of people on a Monday. It’s really magical for me to have an opportunity for all my friends to meet each other in an environment where I create the vibe. 

My thing was actually horses. I moved to Oslo to study agriculture, and in my last year I discovered this music. It was two different lifestyles, so I had to choose. It was only the past five years that I discovered this kind of music and it’s more than just the music. It’s the environment and a family, a community.

So clubbing came first and then the music came after that for you?

Before, my friends were dragging me out and I was lucky to have friends with good taste in music. And then I started developing my own tastes, and before I would never imagine myself having this job, DJing. It is really strange living a dream, I never had. 

Do you remember a specific moment or track that inspired you to first mix two songs together?

It’s impossible to remember one track, because there’s a lot of music and it’s always changing since I play so much. 

Was there a particular DJ that inspired you in Oslo?

No, because I never really thought I would be doing this. I didn’t plan it. For every step I got to, I never imagined I would get there. 

What  kind of music were you growing up with, was there ever any electronic music playing at home?

Not really. My family had a restaurant and my stepfather was Italian, so there was a lot of Italian music and a lot of live music. I played a little piano, but I didn’t actually get introduced to this kind of music, before I moved to Oslo. It just happened so fast.

I wasn’t into the party thing before I found electronic music. Electronic music was a more relaxed way of going out. It wasn’t about getting someone to fuck or shitfaced. It was more about going there to enjoy yourself and enjoying the music.  

From what I’ve heard, your sets favour a dark, minimal sound. What usually draws you to those sounds?

I started out in Tech-House and the more groovy and melodic vibe. Because I was going out to some forest parties in Oslo, where they played psytrance, I’ve had some influence from these events too. It’s a different kind of experience, and I think I’ve always had some influence from the psy scene.

So that’s where the psychedelic element comes from?

Yes

Is there a lot of music out there that bridges those two worlds and how does filter into your Extra Delicious events?

Yes, like Breger and Mateo, they where the first two guys I booked to Norway along with Cubicle, Joona, Mekke Marit and Tingeling. These are the guys I look up to the most, and I was really lucky to book them and play with them. 

It’s really nice to have the middle thing, where these environments meet. So not only the Techno scene and Minimal scene, but also the artistic performance art and psy-scene where you can combine all these people. Usually you have one event for each of these, but I feel like at my events, I can get all these people in the same place and maybe discover each other’s art and music style. 

I think that’s happening all over the world at the moment, and I think it’s so nice since I am such a people person, I want all my friends to be friends, but people are different. When you have this music that everybody likes, it’s a little easier to bridge these gaps.  

How many Extra Delicious events have you had?

Six.

Is it  just you or do you have a whole crew with you

I like to say we when I talk about Extra Delicious but it’s just me. I try to work with people, but I like to do it my own way. However, I always get a lot of help from my close friends, and I work closely with the artist’s crew too. 

What motivated you to start the events?

Because I love these artists. I wanted somebody else to book these artists, but nobody would. I just had to do it myself.

It’s a lot of work to host those kinds of events, because you go to the forest where there’s no kind of infrastructure.

Yes it is, but I get so much out of it. I get to meet my favourite artists and choose everything myself. It’s really nice to design the kind of parties that I want to go to. The only downside is that I don’t have the time to enjoy them myself.

Have you done any production in terms of making your own music?

No, I have such great expectations, and with production, it’s really hard to do something well. I need a lot of time for this, and it has to be something good. That’s why it’s good for me to travel as well, so I can use the time. You can’t force creativity.

You are pretty content just DJing?

That’s the problem. When you are really good at something, it’s really hard to start from scratch and do something else. It’s about stepping out of my comfort zone. 

You have the label coming up and going to Australia, and what else do you have planned for  the future?

There are a lot of things coming up, but I don’t want to jinx it. I want to focus the attention and the money I get from this on trying to help other people, beyond clubbing. I want to use my resources to do a little more than just clubbing. It’s about connecting more with people in Oslo through Extra Delicious.  

So you’re a bit of an altruist. Is this something that extends to DJing too, are you consciously aware of the people on the dance floor and making them happy?

Yes, that’s what drives me. It’s because I have a lot of regular guests that just come to see me, and the nice thing about my crowd is that my biggest fans are also my best friends. I have a personal relationship with my audience.

Remembering David Mancuso with Espen Haa

In 2003 ”Prins” Thomas Moen Hermansen asked his brother  Espen “Haa” Moen Hermansen. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we got David Mancsso to Oslo.” Driven by a passion and interest for David Mancuso’s work and philosophy, Espen took on the mammoth task, not just once, but twice and through those encounters and a few more that centered around trips to the Loft parties in London, Espen got to know the DJ and Disco legend a little better than most. 

Espen Haa had been DJing since the early nineties, and alongside his older brother, he has played an instrumental role in the Full-Pupp events that ran for 15 years at Blå. A dedicated selector, record collector and clubbing enthusiast, Espen has also played a fundamental part in facilitating the scene in Oslo, and has recently took it up himself to re-issue some rare and forgotten gems on the 12” format courtesy of his Neppå label.

He’s hosted, promoted and DJ’d a fair few events throughout his career in Oslo, but some of the most significant of these are two that brought over David Mancuso.   

The allotted space of this introduction here would not even begin to scratch the surface of the legacy of David Mancuso on the modern DJ scene today.Books have been written about the man and his monumental influence on club and DJ culture. Disco exists because of David Mancuso. The music that he played and presented at his legendary Loft parties in New York would fuse into Disco ten years later while the philosophy of his parties would inform what eventually become Paradise Garage, the Gallery, Studio 54 and every club in existence today, and that’s no exaggeration.

His emphasis on sound and the unwavering philosophy of social engagement he brought to his events are some things that still echo through our scene today. Yet, nobody embodies this spirit more than David Mancuso and when he passed away in 2016, he left a profound legacy that no other DJ, promotor or club has, or will ever be able to amount to. 

A reserved person, especially in the years leading up to his death, David Mancuso has very rarely been interviewed, and has had few acquaintances that knew him all that well outside of his inner sanctum of his New York clique. While I’ve read a lot about David Mancuso, I’ve never really spoken to anybody that has had more than a passing word with him. 

Espen however, through his dealings with Mancuso in Oslo and his own interests in the Loft and the philosophy, has gotten to know the man on a personal basis throughout the years and I reached out to Espen to find out more about their relationship and fill in some blanks for us. 

How did you first find out about the Loft and David Mancuso?

I think it was around the late 90s, we talked a lot about New York and its influences and in the early 2000’s me and my friend and DJ, Marius Jøntvedt (DJ Muriazz) went to New York on a pilgrimage to seek it out. We had heard about the Loft and Mancuso, but we went to Body and Soul, because it was like the closest version of the (defunct) Loft at that time. It was very fascinating and inspiring. 

Was he playing at those body and soul parties?

No, but the link between the Loft and Body and Soul was there, because they tried to party in the spirit of Mancuso with downtempo and uptempo; going back to back; no alcohol license; and going from the afternoon into evening. It was very different from nightclubs and very much a private thing.

What inspired you and Marius to go over and experience it all for yourself?

We were into the whole US House, Garage and Disco thing, and it was very natural to go over there and visit all these great record stores. We went to a house party with Danny Krivit in Brooklyn and we were the only tourists there. We made it to to all these great spots. We tried to go to all these places where most of all this music is from. We went record shopping and partying for two weeks. 

It wouldn’t have been as popular as today or even the early nineties at this point. 

It’s hard to say, but there were a bunch of record stores still in New York and we were going to parties on a Monday and Tuesday. I don’t think it is like that anymore. It might not have been a peak for House music, but Ron Trent, Danny Krivit and Francois Kavorkian all still had residencies there. 

Tell me about going to the Loft.

I was never at the Loft in New York, I was at the Loft parties in London. I don’t think David  was doing any parties in New York at that time. There was a period between the mid-eighties to the late nineties that he was not really that popular. He moved the club in the mid-eighties and lost a lot of his audience. In the late nineties he started to get to know an English guy called Tim Lawrence, who wrote the book “love saves the day.“  He actually got David back doing parties in the early 2000’s in London.  

So you never met David in New York?

I actually met him in Oslo for the first time and then I met him a few times after that again in London. 

The Loft was such a significant space because of David’s philosophy behind it. How did it translate to a party in London?

At least they tried to create the same kind of vibe. David was always like: “if you have to do a party that’s not in your own apartment, you have to ask yourself, could I stay here at night.”

The parties in London were on the second floor of a pub in a big space. It was a rented space and it wasn’t anybody’s home, but it was a super-friendly vibe. It’s possible to transfer the same vibe if the people that are there are at the party for the right reasons. It was a community. 

I think he was happy with the space in London, because they had it for many years. 

And David would play his records there?

David would play his records there. It started at five in the afternoon with super-mellow, spacey music and people would arrive like a normal house party and then it developed as the dance floor got going. It peaked for a few hours and then he took it down again. He played for roughly six hours.

He was always very adamant that there shouldn’t be any mixers in his setup and that a record should play all the way through. Did he at any point change that approach in London?

No. At every party I saw David, he never mixed. He didn’t even want to see a mixer. (laughs) It just interfered with the music for him. He was very particular about playing the whole record. He saw the music as a piece of art, and thought who am I to do anything about that. He was very straightforward about that and he still respected people that wanted this flow, mixing records together, but it wasn’t for him really. I discussed it with him several times. 

Was he playing LPs or 12”?

He wanted to play music as good as it could be and he preferred the 12” for that reason. He could easily play a 14 minute side from start to end.

Was it generally older stuff he played, or did he throw some contemporary things in there?

At the first parties, he was very stuck in his own music and stuff he had been playing for thirty years. I actually tried to slip him some new stuff and he took in some modern House stuff, but peak time he gave people the classic stuff.   

When he was playing to people that were dancing, was it usually beat-driven kind of stuff in the sense of that quintessential early Disco sound?

Well, when people were dancing he played beat-music. Early on he played more drizzling and exotic music, often beatless. He was a master in building up, and he could play “non-party music” for a couple of hours. He wanted that. Who wants banging music from the minute they arrive at a party? 

When you did get him over to Oslo, I imagine it wasn’t easy?

No, it wasn’t easy. I had quite a few people warn me about it. “Espen you don’t need this in your life,” they said. It’s this whole package that you have to say yes to. 

I did The Loft in Oslo With Marius Jøntvedt, Jan Erik Sondresen and Marius Engemoen (Marius Circus). The first time we had him over, it was actually at Blå where Thomas and Strangefruit had this night called Cosmic Jam sessions and Thomas asked me to try and get David Mancuso over. I emailed David, and he wrote back a few days later; “when can I call you?” He wanted all correspondence to be over the phone. 

I convinced him it was a friendly place and it was a friendly environment, and we paid him quite well. We did it in combination with one of the Loft parties in London.

It was pretty interesting having a guy like him coming to guest a night at Blå, but because he didn’t really know the music, he was very clear on opening for Thomas and Pål. That was hard to sell to the audience, because people came roughly at 23:00 like they do in Norway. 

Did he just play on Blå’s soundsystem?

Well the first time he even played with a mixer. He didn’t do any knobbing, just brought the volume up and down and played the songs as he always has. The second time we did a lot more with the sound.

Tell me about the second time?

This was 2005. We decided to do the whole Loft thing, with the soundsystem, the food and everything. We rented Stratos because it was the highest room in Oslo, but we didn’t have any Klipschorns or any big home stereo rig so we rented a system from a place in Drammen. 

David insisted on somebody to do the sound and I was like: “we’ll find somebody”. And David said, “no no, there’s two ways to do the sound Espen, the right way or the wrong way.” We had to get this guy called Ian Mackie from Scotland, he did all the Loft parties in London. 

We had to have David here for a whole week, so he could get to know everything. We had to get a stereo installed in his hotel room so he could listen to records, crazy stuff. We did no promotion, because that’s the way they did it in New York. This wasn’t very smart, we should’ve advertised it a little more. It was a new thing to Oslo, this old-school private party, and the night went fine, but we lost a lot of money so we never did it again. (laughs) 

After that I had to go to London if I wanted to see David.

You got to know him a little during this time. What was he like as a person, did that kind of pedantic thing he had about music extend to his personality as well? 

We got to know him and I spent a lot of time with him. He was passionate and very idealistic, but he was shy as well. He was interested in music, but he was very political as well. He was always talking about progression, and getting the different sides of society to meet. He was very into the concept of breaking boundaries and getting people together and the parties were ideal for that. He was very concerned about the less-fortunate people in society. 

He was an introvert and not easy to communicate with. It took some time to get under his skin, but after a few days and more meetings, the corners became a little more rounded. He was a bit withdrawn. This man had been worshipped for 35 years and he was used to being in the middle of things, so he was social, but not very outspoken.

We talked about music and equipment and the madness of nightclubs taking too much money on alcohol. He had stopped taking drugs and I believe he took a lot of drugs in the eighties. He barely drank while he was over here. He wasn’t very interested in having a lot of people around him but on a one-on-one situation he was an incredibly interesting man to talk to.

You say he didn’t drink much, but I always thought he was completely against drinking and the Loft didn’t allow any alcohol?

I think he had a bottle of whisky with him in the booth. (laughs) I know at the Loft parties in New York, people brought their own coolers with drinks. They didn’t have a cabaret license because David wanted to make this a party thing, he didn’t want to make any money from the bar. 

I know he did make a lot of money in admission in the late seventies and early eighties. These are things I’ve learnt from Tim Lawrence: he earned a lot of money and he spent it all on Hi-Fi and his friends. He was super generous with his friends.

Did you ever talk to him about the peak era of the Loft?

A little bit, but he wasn’t really into sharing and we asked a lot of questions. He was kind of general about it. He talked about Paradise Garage and studio 54 as places quite different from the Loft, because they had a focus on celebrity and Disco. 

The early Loft space was like 150-200 people and it was quite small and private. He wasn’t into the name game at all. I don’t think he even think he liked the subject. 

He wanted to speak about the cause and all the things that happened in New York in the seventies and the eighties with all the gay people and the poor people being pushed out of Manhattan. These were topics for David. 

He didn’t want to refer to the Loft as a Disco. He played Funk, Jazz, Latin and Afro and the Disco came in in ‘75. The fusion of everything he played became Disco in the mid 70s. 

When was the last time you saw him or had a conversation with him?

That could be 2008 in London. I don’t remember when, but at some point his health deteriorated and he wasn’t travelling. Colleen Cosmo took over as the musical host in London. It was always a highlight to come to London and see him and speak to him.

It was a brief friendship, and I didn’t know him very well, but I spent some time with him. I emailed him a lot, but around 2010, he just stopped answering emails and I know he did that with a lot of people. The last 6 years of his life he had only had a handful of people around him that he trusted, but it wasn’t much more than that.   

And looking back on it all, was there a piece of music that defined the David Mancuso’s sound for you through all your endeavours together?

It’s hard to pick one track, I have to name three:

Demis Roussos – L.O.V.E Got a hold of me

Brass Construction – Music makes you feel like dancing

Roy Ayers – Running away 

And he never played bootlegs. Sound quality was one thing. And he thought it was unheard of to support releases that did nothing for those who wrote the music. 

Mind, heart and elevation with Sami Zibak

*Photo by Dor Schwartz

Sami Zibak is a queer Palestinian DJ that emerged out of Tel Aviv’s club circuit, and has gone to help establish a new clubbing community in Haifa as well as regularly playing abroad in places like Berlinand soon Oslo. Sami Zibak’s personal history is colourful mosaic of influences that straddles a rich cultural heritage that goes from his Palestenian roots to the queer clubbing community that embraced him as a dancer and DJ. 

Stepping into the queer clubbing community in Tel Aviv, Sami Zibak went from being a guest to a dancer, providing the alluring visual component to the music. Dancing opened the door to DJing, and Sami soon captivated his audiences in sound, in much the same way his dancing did before in movement. As one of the first openly queer Palestenian DJs, he not only paved a way forward for others, but opened the door to entire community waiting in the wings.

From Tel Aviv he moved to Haifa, considered to be the beating heart of the Palestinian underground scene, leading a gateway to the surrounding Arab communities in the region including Golan Heights, Ramallah and Amman (Jordan). Sami Zibak is an elusive force on DJ circuit in the region with sets informed by the same eclecticism that follows his cultural roots.

There is very little left unexplored through his sets, as he favours an openness that reflects the person behind the set. From Deep House to 90’s rave breakbeat, Sami’s sets can go everywhere in his unflinching pursuit in finding some fluidity between his audience and the music he plays. Being openly queer and Palestenian, comes with its own complexities that seem unlikely to merely unravel through a set. So with a visit to Oslo for Everysome and Jaeger looming, we reached out to Sami via email to ask more about some of these complexities and how they inform his work as a DJ. 

Hello Sami and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. 

Hey! Thank you very much for this interview! 

I understand that you are a queer Palestinian living and working in Israel. Can you give us a little more background information about how you arrived in Tel-Aviv? 

So, many people don’t know, but after Israel declared itself as a country in 1948, Palestinians were divided into 3 separate domains, Gaza Strip, The West Bank, and some of us stayed inside what became Israel. My family is from Nazareth which is an Arab city in northern Israel that is well known in the christian faith, and Nazarene Palestinians didn’t leave their homes (as many other Palestinians did back in 1948). So I am from the Palestinians that lives inside Israel and I have an Israeli passport. 

To make a long story short on how I got to Tel Aviv, it all started with my parents Azmi and Ghada, that left Nazareth after finishing high school and moved to Haifa city to study Arts and Engineering in the university. After graduating, they moved to Tel-Aviv and was part of the first Palestinians to live in this city back in the 80’s. They wanted to live a less conservative life and experience more cultural options. Tel Aviv is a city mainly inhabited by Jewish-Israelis and its considered to be the jewel of Israel, which means the government puts a lot of money and effort to make it look shiny, bright and colorful, which in many ways it IS, but in some other ways it is not, when you realise it’s a bourgeoisie bubble that likes to perceive itself as open and elevated when in real life it’s a greenhouse for ignorant rich people that practice left wing ideas as if they were a pilates or yoga classes… in other words, their elevation reaches only to the edges of their comfort zone and no further. 

Anyway, I was born in Jaffa, which is an Arab city connected to Tel-Aviv. My parents moved here when me and my older sister, Haya, were born so we could grow in an Arabic speaking environment and practice our Arab and Palestinian culture. I will explain shortly that in the middle east, there are Arabs with different religions, there are muslim, druzi, and christians. My family is christian (not religious), but regardless of our so called faith, we share the same cultural system as any other Arabs.

I grew up in Jaffa, I loved my childhood. At some point in the beginning of my high school days I became very socially popular in the Arab community in Jaffa for my work in the scouts, church and other local institutions. But when I came out as gay at age 17.5, I was totally banned from this community, and in one day, all the connections I had, came to an end. As a result I moved to Tel Aviv, to search for a place and people that will accept me as I am and will grant me the environment to practice and discover my unique self. 

How did you get into club music from there?

Photo by David Havroni

I’m a super social person, therefore I make friends quickly. And so was my first footsteps in the city; I was very excited and thirsty to discover new communities and people, and the Tel-Avivians were extremely curious to know who is this new gay Arab that arrived in their city, because back then (2007) I was almost the only Arab in the hip community of Tel Aviv. So in the very beginning before I knew anybody I went to a gay party called PAG – I was under age to go into the club, 17.5 years old, and the bouncer allowed me to go in because I was cute, or because it was my destiny to go in. Entering this party which was my first club experience ever, I was shocked from everything I saw, starting from the electronic music (back then it was the Electro genre) and from the cute guys and from the crazy performers and dancers,  fashion, which was all about neon new wave. It was a whole new world for me and I loved it because I have never seen such a thing before. I fell in love with this music and vibe, and shortly after I started to work at the door of this party and went in a dress to my shift. 

I was super bitchy with the guests, so the owner of the party, Roy Raz told me to go inside the club and dance. A little while after I became the ultimate all time diva of this party and my voguing dance performances are well remembered and admired till today in many parts of Tel Aviv. Many other new queer personalities in the city, both Arabs and Jews came in search of me and were inspired and encouraged to be their beautiful self. One thing I can tell you is that I couldn’t do it without the music that was played in the club. A mix of electro and oldskool house trax with piano keys, put my soul on fire and my body couldn’t resist making the most amazing poses and postures on stage (the stage was a speaker). The funny thing is that when I was performing on stage, I always had an inner conflict whether to continue dancing or to go down the stage and run to the dj booth to ask him for the track id. 

Yes, I believe it was dancing that provided the impetus to start DJing. What was it about DJing that appealed to you and what music tended to spur you on?

As a dancer I developed a close relationship to the resident dj of the party, those days it was Partok, nowadays he’s a resident dj at The Block club in Tel Aviv, lives in Berlin and plays regularly at Berghain. I was really into his music, and he knew my appreciation was genuine because my musical background was totally different and what I was hearing at the club was completely new to my ear. One day he opened a small bar in Tel-Aviv called Laika Bar and he offered me the opportunity to throw a party there and be the dj. It was kind of a funny thing that we did for the gimmick, but he really taught me to dj on actual CDS. Back then the music I loved was American east coast new wave of deep house, mainly originating from the Underground Quality label of Dj Jus Ed, and its superstars back then: Fred P, Levon Vincent, Dj Qu, Jenifa Mayanja, Anton Zap (Russia), and I was also very into the minimal sound of Hamburg that was led by Dial Records and Smallville records. 

Did you have any musical background before this?

I played the violin through childhood, and then the saxophone throughout early high school but I had to stop because of surgery on my lungs. But that was okay because exactly then, a bit after the millennium, the internet became more usable and the likes of wikipedia became available. I remember surfing the web for hours moving from one topic to another through the modern history of rock music supported by lots of psychedelic, progressive rock and experimental music records my parents collected in the 70’s and 80’s. I have always been drawn to music that has an evolutionary background to it. That’s why when I play a track I know what the producer stands for when he released it. 

You moved to Haifa at some point. What was the motivation for the move and how do those two scenes differ from each other? 

After many years in Tel Aviv between 2007 till 2013, I didn’t practice my Arabian culture, and I barely spoke my mother tongue. I was waiting for life to open a door to Arabs that will accept me as I am, and that I could be who I really am in their midst, with all my freedom and colorful personality and mind. And this door opened in 2013 at one of the “Acid Crew” parties I was doing with my crew back then in Tel Aviv. 

I was dancing in the middle of the crowd when suddenly I heard people speaking in Arabic, and I turned and looked at them and fell in love. It was as if I found home again. I could speak Arabic in the midst of my Tel-Avivian parallel-reality that I created for myself. That was insane, and after the party ended, I couldn’t think about anything else other than these beautiful people I met there. The weeks after, I started to go regularly to Haifa to dj at their parties. Till the day I decided to move there and make the best out of this opportunity. 

For all of us, both me and the Haifa underground scene which was in its very first steps, our encounter was both exciting and weird. For me I was totally shocked that I’ve found Arabs that liked to party hard like me, and they are all about freedom and self expression and resistance to the oppressing norms. And for them it was shocking to have a new member of their community to be extremely open about my gender fluidity and my sexual orientation. 

Plus our music was so different. I was playing strictly house music both oldskool and deep house, and they were kinda still into Trance music. Slowly they opened up to techno and underground house music after travelling in Europe and visiting clubs in Berlin etc. 

Another difference between my experience in Tel Aviv and Haifa, was that the Tel Avivian scene which is a totally Jewish-Israeli scene based upon comfort. Although they sometimes have problems with the police and stuff, in general they are comfortable because they are in their own country and they are free to express them-selves as they like. 

However, the Haifa scene is completely different, because its a scene that was forged as an encounter riot to the racism its members faced in their attempts to participate in the Israeli nightlife and cultural scene. Many times they were rejected at clubs, and not given chances to play in Israeli clubs. So the scene itself is more about resistance and riot against the opression, and into creating a safe space for Palestinian artists and ravers both from the west bank and Israel to come and enjoy themselves and be creative together. 

Were there ever any prejudices or obstructions that you faced stepping into the booth as a queer Palestinian?

In Tel Aviv, I always knew how to transform what could be an obstacle to an advantage. For example, in Tel Aviv which is a city ruled by Jewish-Israeli people that for many years didn’t give almost any Arab Palestinian dj/party promoter/performer a stage, I could break through this wall and claim my stage, when I know that many other Palestinians couldnt do the same.

In Haifa, one of the main obstacles was and still is, is the fact that I have such a strong and rare connection to Tel Aviv, which some Palestinian people consider as treachery. So many times I find myself looked at in a suspicious manner by my fellow Palestinians in the Haifa/Ramallah scenes. 

And last but not least, in Ramallah (West Bank), I have many ravers there that love what I have to offer as a dj but some of them again have a problem with my connection to Tel Aviv. Also there was that time I played in Ramallah and almost got arrested by Palestinian authority for going into the toilet with a guy. Haha. thank the goddess I had the urge to run.  

Photo by Efrat Shahar Kaplan

From what I’ve heard (mostly online), your sets are quite diverse, and you go from Disco to nineties breakbeat. But what do you usually look for in music to make it into your sets?

I always look for mind & heart uplift and elevation through sonic frequencies and words, adding to it the colorful freedom my queer state of being gives me, and there you have a diverse, colorful, uplifting, cool set. 

Also the background of the music is super important to me. Music that is strictly made to express a need for change will always have my favor because when I play it in a club I support them and educate my crowd. 

We’ve had a few DJs from the region play in Oslo recently, and for the most part it’s very similar to what we hear around clubs in Europe. Are there ever any regional (especially Palenstenian) elements that you like to convey in your sets?

I don’t combine Arabian/Palestinian motives into my sets. I play only what I love in the genre of club music. I am aware of the international demand from Arab djs to come and play electronic music combined with Arabian elements. But I am against this oriental obligation. I don’t have to play Arabic stuff just because I’m Arab. I will play whatever I like. But I know that many other Arab djs fall into this demand and play oriental sounds for the white crowd that is thirsty for a taste of exotic rhythms. 

Do you play a lot in Palestine today?

Depends on what you call Palestine :)  I play regulary in Haifa at Kabareet, which is the first Palestinian club ever to be in both Israeli and Palestinian. I am a resident dj over there. Same goes to my monthly appearance at the Tel Avivian club Alphabet which is the only club in Tel Aviv that gives a stage to Palestinian Arab djs to perform.

And regarding playing in the west bank, I used to do it a lot, but honestly I was a bit traumatized from the aggressive response of the authorities there to my gayness and I haven’t visited the city of Ramallah for 4 years. Plus the electronic scene over there was a bit quiet in the last couple of years, and the Hip Hop/Trap scene got stronger so there aren’t that many opportunities to play there as a house music DJ lately.  

Club Culture and dance music had always been in some part in the sense of escapism, and I’ve always found it interesting that such a healthy club scene like the one in Tel Aviv can exist in a politically charged region like that. How are you able to distance yourself from the politics in that region in a club if at all?

When you live in Israel, you can’t be political all the time because if you do so, you won’t do anything here. So sometimes I ignore many things that I think is wrong, and focus on the good things. Also, I would definitely not call the scene in Tel Aviv “Healthy”. I mean yes, from the foreign perspective it looks that we have parties, and we bring over loads of international djs and we also export many locals to perform in the world, but at the end of the day, if you come and have a close look at the condition of nightlife in the city, its kinda bad at the moment. 

There are almost no clubs in the city. There are 3 main clubs for the underground scene, The Block, Breakfast Club and Alphabet Club. Each one of those is kinda struggling against the police and permissions, and music wise each one of them has their own specific line-ups and djs and they forge a bubble alone by themselves. All the other clubs here are commercial so no need to even mention. Furthermore, nightlife in Israel is super ignorant about the political situation, and totally in denial about the existence of Palestinian people and their struggle. Unfortunately most of the ravers here come to clubs and drug themselves to forget. 

So how do you convey a queer identity thgrough your DJ sets and is it transerfable to any context?

I have a weird approach to the term Queer identity. First of all being completely sober and a non smoker in the dj booth is a hell of a queer appearance in an enviroment fed on drugs, alcohol and sigarretes. I usually come to my gigs with a box of fruits and vegetables that I cut at home, and I eat them during my set.  And if I need an elevation, I sniff my tiny bottle of Lavender essential oil. 

Sometimes (it depends on my mood) I can wear dresses of gender fluid clothes. And music wise, my sets are very diverse, I can go through soulful house, disco, rave, breaks, chicago house, detroit futurism and olskool techno. I am free to do whatever I like, because for me deejaying is not about fulfilling somebody’s expectations. It’s about being myself, and I know that when im 100% myself, it’s fun! For me and for the crowd. If u catch me once playing bad, you should know that I’m not feeling comfortable. And this can happen to me if the crowd is too high on cocaine and just asking me constantly to give them bangers. Just let me be myself, with my imperfection, and I will go with you to a beautiful place. 

Photo by Eliran Nargassi

You’ve spent some time playing in Berlin this year. Is there a connection there for you and how might you play differently there compared back to back home?

Berlin happens to be the capital of electronic dance music nowadays, and many of the industry people, whether they are ravers, djs, promoters or agents, live there. So on one trip I can meet many of my friends from the industry and have fun together, plus we can plan creative projects for the future. 

One of the most interesting ventures I’m doing now is Fluid which is a series of events I do with my dear friend the dj and producer Mor Elian which is a world renowned artist, originally from Tel Aviv, and John Humphry of Higher Ground Agency in Berlin. We do these events at OHM club which is such a cool and sweet venue in the back of the building of the famous Tresor club. 

We provide a platform for talented artists from around the world that usually don’t have a chance to perform in Berlin. We have a special focus on artists from queer scenes, especially those that face political repression or are suffering from the results of conflict. In November we’re gonna host Oramics crew which is a music collective from Poland that is working on providing a safe space for LGBTQ+ clubbing in today’s conservative right wing Poland. 

When I play in Berlin I allow myself more freedom of expression because I know the crowd there is open and want to see the best of me. I believe the same will go for my gigs in Oslo. 

You’re actually playing twice in Oslo when you visit. How do you think your sets will differ between Everysome, a queer event on a Friday night, and Jaeger, which is a little more mixed and on a Sunday?

First of all, I’m super excited to visit Oslo for the first time. I have a special place in my heart for this northern part of the world that I am excited to fulfill in this visit and I’m very grateful to Terje and the crew of Everysome and Jaeger to invite me. I think Queer Friday will be more about Breakbeats, 90’s Rave House music, and Garage. And Mixed Sunday would definitely be the Edgy side of Deep House music. But in both cases, my sets are a mutual creation of me and the crowd therefore creative flexibility with a sense of adventure is always a blessing. 

So let’s discover together! 

 

On my own terms with Karina

“It’s funny what’s going on with social media,” says Karina Chaczbabian while contemplating the spoon in her coffee. “A double espresso” she insisted earlier, “it’s Monday”. “All these things you have to learn,” she continues slipping back into the thought with a rhetorical “do I really want to do this?”

Does she need to do this is a more urgent question. Karina has been DJing successfully around the world these past twenty years, and she’s been doing it all on her own terms. She’s been an enigma, always on some kind of tour, between her various residencies around the world, and yet when she posts something from her artist page today she’s lucky if she receives “three likes” with even her close friends are unlikely to see it. “I hope that people booking these people understand,” she says of the current DJ hype as she contemplates the ubiquity of social media in today’s DJ culture, before she resigns “I just don’t know anymore…”  

It’s a rare moment I get with Karina. She’s on a brief stopover in Oslo, before leaving for the United States and Mexico, where she has a tour lined-up for the autumn season. She hopes to get in a recording session with Connie Yin in New York for their new C&K project, but she will remain on the move in the constant transient lifestyle of a working DJ.  

This has been the reality for the Karina through the better part of her career and regardless of her woes on social media, it doesn’t look to change anytime soon. After the States she’ll hardly have a moment before jetting off to her residency at Analog Room in Dubai, where the Iranian crew has finally secured their own location and then she’s planning an extended stay in the newest Techno capital of the world,Tbilisi, Georgia.

“I really loved the country so I’m considering going there for a few months, and I really want to discover the culture and make music,” she impresses. Georgia, Tbilisi will be the next stop in a life that has taken her from Poland to Norway, Egypt, Ibiza, Berlin and New York through the course of her youth and adult career, which shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. And remarkably she’s done it all with a 100-odd records always in tow.

I meet Karina for a coffee on her way to Filter Musikk where she has to convince Roland Lifjell to hold a consignment of records for her return in a few months. She played Storgata 26 the weekend before, and was delighted in the fact that she could play some of her Disco records this time around. She has been playing a fair bit of Disco recently from Oslo to New York  where she keeps some of those records “in a suitcase at a friend’s place in the Bronx.” While in Oslo she is also trying to coordinate to relocate these records for access upon her next visit to the US and Karina does all this without an agent or manager.

“I haven’t found the right person for me,” she says when I ask her about her lack of agent.  “Why should I pay 20% for something I can do myself,” she demands, but she can agree “it’s not an easy way” of working. Karina is the last of her kind, a DJ that negates the hype and in an industry dominated by social media, she stands out today as an individual dedicated to her craft and the tools of her craft, that could never be appreciated in the measly 80 characters of an average insta post. Hers is a purist pursuit, that is enshrined in the bedrock of the same fundamentals of DJing that started in Ibiza for Karina when she first cut her teeth in the business end of club culture and DJing. 

How did she end up in Ibiza, I wonder. “It’s very simple,” she says, “I just went to Ibiza on holiday. I was looking at these guys working and I was like; I want to do that. I was studying economics at that point, and I was like, why I’m doing that? I got addicted to Ibiza and I spent ten seasons there.” 

She started her life in Ibiza as a waitress, but after a late night at DC10 and Cocoon, she missed her shift and subsequently lost her job. It turned out to be fortuitous for the burgeoning DJ. Even then, Ibiza “wasn’t cheap, everybody was doing everything to survive” and Karina went from waitressing to doing promo for Cream. This was a time before the ubiquitous power of social media and promotion meant reaching out directly to the people. ”I was their best promoter and I actually hated that music,” says Karina with grimace, but she found it quite easy to separate her personal tastes with her job. “I was thinking to myself; ‘There are people that like this and I need to find those people.’” 

She quickly moved on from Cream to Cocoon where she spent six years while DJing around Ibiza. She picked up a residency at The Zoo Project during this time, and the open air would eventually consume all her time, forcing her to leave Cocoon and devote all her energy to The Zoo Project. “I love The Zoo Project – it is so much fun,” muses Karina “an incredible amusement park for grown ups.” 

2019 marks the first year in 20 years that Karina will not be in Ibiza or her beloved The Zoo Project, and I‘m curious whether it has something to do with the recent spat of police raids around the island. “I just wanted something different,” she replies. “I don’t feel it’s changing in a direction that interests me,” she says when I press her on the state of club culture on the balearic isle. That side of the island was inconsequential to a person like Karina, who tended to stay clear of the known tourist traps around the island. Her decision to leave was one based on a simple desire to explore more of the world, especially North America, Georgia and Armenia.

Thanks to her base in the Big Apple she’s travelled all over the States, especially enjoying the divergent House and Techno scenes of San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, and her favorite Detroit. “Playing in Detroit is quite a challenge for me as an European. I love it and I’m also very nervous. I respect it a lot, ” she says with an unbridled enthusiasm. She’s travelled between Europe and the USA 14 times in the last year and even though she might be in Georgia next year she has no intention of slowing down next year either.

As for her desire to move to Tbilisi, it came after a recent visit to the region. “I went to go look for my roots” she hisses, as a bit of an eastern European accent glides off the oo’s and into the esses. 

“I’m Armenian by descent,” she explains and after a brief visit to the country, she has been inspired to explore more of the region, with Georgia as her base and the booming Techno scene there to facilitate her move. “I really loved the country, so I’m considering going there for a few months, and I really want to discover the culture and the music.” 

She hopes the move might give her the time to work on some new music, but ultimately Karina has always been more of a DJ than a producer. She has enjoyed a musical output, releasing music on Cymawax, God Particle and recently a track called “Acid Meow” for Absence Seizure, but DJing always seemed to trump all her other creative endeavours. Asked about her reserved output, she breaks out in a simper with “yeah of course, because I’m homeless. I’m constantly on tour.” With most of her machines in a house in Poland (where she spends a fair amount of her time too), making music is a real endeavour she can only enjoy when she’s settled somewhere. “That’s the plan for next year,” she tells me. “To stay longer in one place,” in an effort to “work on things a bit more.” She has however managed to find some time in the last year to work on new music with friend and fellow DJ, Connie Yin (Resolute, NYC).

“We actually became good friends before we DJed together,” says Karina, but  it was after playing back to back that they forged a musical bond too. Karina admits, “I don’t like to play back to back all the time,” but with Connie “it was really fun.” 

They shared a musical kinship through DJing, which expounded through their friendship led to them collaborating on their own music as C&K. After an extended stay in New York, Karina and Connie managed to lay down some material in what would be a future release, but Karina insists there’s no rush in putting anything out just yet. “I’m not going to release music, just for it to be released.” She insists on a “quality of sound” in her productions and “music as art” and not a commodity to be flouted as some marketing gimmick to get more gigs.

Talk of a C&K label has also surfaced, but in much the same way that Karina treats music, she “was never interested in having a label for the sake of having a label.” A C&K label would have to remain consistent with her philosophy on music. “I can make a House track in a day,” she insists with a sarcastic overtone; “but for what, is it going to be that good?” Like she is prone to do, Karina leaves the question hanging, and I can’t always  discern if it’s rhetorical. On this occasion I answer with another question. Do you feel you have to make music to get more playtime?

She gives my a side glance before answering; “Obviously there is a correlation… do I need to follow that…. A bit if I want to, but not really.”  It’s understandable why she won’t acquiesce to the archetypes that dominate DJ culture today. As she insists, she is a DJ and a DJ that still honours the traditions of her craft. She won’t be lured into a debate about digital over vinyl, and she respects every DJ’s decision in their choice of format, but she’ll always prefer vinyl. “It’s my choice, and I’m happy with what I do,” she explains while talking about the benefits of the tactile format. 

You can’t deny however, that there’s a certain dedication involved in carrying a big bag of records around the world, and yet the only real downside for Karina is the “the weight and you can’t really take all the music with you that you’d love to have.” Karina thrives in the limitation, but I get the overwhelming sense that these records aren’t merely tools for Karina. “It’s an addiction,” she stresses “an absolute incurable disease,” and yet she doesn’t appear to be looking for any cure. “I sometimes have two copies of a record,” she admits. For Karina, if there’s a “record on sale, that nobody knows about, it can’t just stay there. I feel sorry for the record. It’s talking to me; take me… take me.”

Her second (or is it fourth at this point) home in Poland contains the largest portion of a collection that’s dotted around the world. “I lost control a long time ago,” says Karina about the spread of record collection which includes the House and Techno she plays most often in her DJ sets, but there’s a uniformed approach to her buying habits with records that have “to stand out to be a little different.” Karina is determined that “it can’t have any aggressive sounds in it” and she likes her records “to be moody,” especially the ones she plays in her sets. 

“I’ve invested a lot of money in records,” she impresses and while her friends by now “have a house and a car,” Karina is content in having her freedom and a bag of records at her side. Whenever she returns to Poland, it’s like “digging in my own shop” she tells me with a smile, rediscovering some old favourites, while swapping out the records in her travelling bag. Putting so much effort into the music, Karina prefers a 4 hours for her sets .“I hate these one hour slots. It’s boring, you’re done before you get started.” She prefers to take her time so she and her audience can “have more of an understanding of the night.” She absolutely abhors festival sets today where it’s a case of “bang and your done” and that mature approach is something that follows Karina through all aspects of her music.

Her dedication to the vinyl format; her reserved approach to production and releasing records; her views on running a label; and her desire to remain in one place for an extended (yet temporary) period in order to experience the culture and the music of a region completely is at odds with what the immediacy that DJ- and club culture demands today, both in the physical- and the virtual realm. From her time in Ibiza to her next adventure in Georgia, Karina’s career in music has been forged on her own terms, and there’s no reason she would stop the cycle now.

As our time winds down and we start to make our way to Filter Musikk, Karina relishes in talking about a new track she’s working on and “getting a bass-line together” for the future piece. “I’m really excited about it. It’s a Detroit kind of track, called ‘Pure D’, and it needs that warm bass-line.” Moreover she is “really thinking about working on new music next year,” but first it’s off to the USA, Dubai and somewhere in between there’s a stop home in Kristiansand, Norway again. 

We barely had a chance to talk about the mix she specifically made for Jaeger to accompany the interview, but she makes sure to mention before I press stop on the recording, that “Jaeger is my favourite place in Oslo.” She relishes any opportunity to play at the club and hopes the mix reflects the vibe and feel of Jaeger, as she’s experienced it in the past from the booth.

Our conversation was a whirlwind as we rushed through topics over the course of a single cup of coffee as Karina swept through her extensive career and thoughts on music. There was hardly a pause, and just like that she’s gone again, off on her next adventure… 

Jeremy Olander’s cinematic selections

Jeremy Olander’s music and sets are a visceral experience, charged in emotional depths and executed in eloquent melodic passages. A DJ and electronic music producer that rose to prominence through the Stockholm scene where the likes of Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso and Eric Prydz paved the way, Jeremy Olander found a voice in the harmonious corners of 4-4 club music. It was at Prydz’ Pryda label where Olander would make his first impressions on the circuit in 2011, and he’s been releasing at least two EPs a year since his first release while touring the world extensively as a DJ.

After an unprecedented six releases on Pryda Friends and one on Pryda, Olander eventually set up his own label, Vivrant, from which he would exclusively release his own music, between releases from artist friends. His next release finds Olander capturing the sound of the label for another imprint in the form of a career-first mix album coming out via Balance. The album contains 14 unreleased tracks from Olander across three monikers, as well as label affiliates and friends like Tim Engelhardt, Locked Groove, La Fleur and Ejeca.

To accompany the release, Olander will be touring around the globe from Sweden to Australia, with Jaeger and Oslo his very first stop on the tour. As an extension of the new mix album, the Vivrant tour will see Olander serve up some of his unique melodic infused club music with a specific focus on the Vivrant sonic aesthetic. We reached out to Jeremy Olander ahead of the tour to ask about his early influences and how he might have arrived at the music he plays and makes today, but after receiving a shortlist, we were pleasantly surprised by his selections.

Born in America, to an Indian mother and Swedish father, and raised in Stockholm, Olander has had a multicultural upbringing that should undoubtedly have made for some interesting musical influences in his formative years, but when we asked him to share a few, we were excited to find that a cinematic connection started to emerge. We called up Jeremy Olander at his home in Sweden, where he is currently enjoying some downtime before he heads out on the tour, to ask about how this theme emerged and how this particular form of music has resonated with him. 

What a great compilation of music. I don’t think I mentioned that there should be any concept to this list, but you stuck to this cinematic theme and it’s great.

I think it’s fun to try and do a theme, to tell some sort of story. 

And why specifically music for film?

I like listening to it, and the aspect of storytelling. A lot of dance music does the same. A lot of the music I play doesn’t have any vocals in it that tells you a story, so you have to tell it through melodies and vibe.

 

Operation New World OST – Big Sleep

 

I randomly watched this movie years ago after a friend recommended it. It’s one of my favourite movies (never leaves my iPad) and it catapulted my interest and love for Korean film making. I’m surprised Hollywood haven’t made a shitty remake of it yet. The soundtrack fits the movie like a glove and is kind of reminiscent of The Godfather theme song in a sense. Very gangster-esque.

This is a very mournful and emotionally charged song. Is this something you look for in music?

Yes, I like the melancholic kind of tracks. I don’t want it to be too happy-go-lucky and I don’t  know if that’s just the Swede inside of me. 

The music you make also relies on a similar melodic emphasis. Do you feel you have to be in some kind of emotional state to make music?

It depends and I’ll go through different stages. Sometimes I have to wait for it to come. At the moment, I’m having a hard time forcing it. It’s more about taking some time off and finding some ideas. You never know when it’s going to strike, you’ll just have to wait for it. 

Do you listen to a lot of film scores when you’re at home and enjoying some time off?

Yes, I would say so. I think when I listen to most of the music I listen to, it’s when I’m taking my dog for a walk or going from A to B. When I’m at home and I’m not working on music, I don’t tend to listen to music.

 

The Land Before Time – The Rescue’ Discovery Of The Great Valley

 

I think a lot of people born in the mid to late 80s watched this movie growing up. It really is an incredible film, albeit a bit sad, that I can’t wait to watch with my kid. The soundtrack adds another layer of emotions that takes me right back to childhood as soon as I hear it. James Horner really was one of the greatest film music composers. 

Why this particular moment in the movie?

I don’t know, it’s something that speaks to me about that part of the film and the music. It really strikes a chord with me. It’s a very sad movie all the way through, but there’s also a kind of hopefulness as well. 

You say you have a kid. Has that changed your perspective on DJing and clubbing?

Definitely. I can’t really stay away when I’m on tour like I could before. It’s a little bit crazy, but that’s the life I chose.

Do you think it has an effect on the way that you DJ, because you don’t have that same relationship with the club anymore? 

I think I’ve settled a little more in what I do. You see a lot of younger people going out, they’re very up to date on the trends. I still think I stay informed on what is happening, since there are so many news outlets covering dance music. I still try to go digging, but it’s not what it was like when I got into DJing with all the blogs and parties.

 

The Thin Red Line – God Yu Tekem Laef Blong Mi 

 

The Thin Red Line came out during the same year as Saving Private Ryan, which obviously stole all the limelight in terms of war movies. It’s kind of a shame because what Terrance Mallick did was really, really good. It had a great cast and the music delivered by Hans Zimmer was on point. It’s one of Hans’ lesser known pieces but definitely a favourite of mine. I played this as last song in a set in Buenos Aires. The crowd looked very confused. 

This is the only piece of music with a vocal in it. Was that intentional?

I chose it, because a couple of years ago, I started listening to that song a lot. I thought it was funny because I played it once, and it was a bit of a curve ball for the audience. I don’t think they were expecting to hear that kind of piece. 

Do you think people might not have the patience for putting in that kind of a curve ball in a DJ set today?

I think you can still do it here and there and it depends how long you’re playing as well. If you have a one hour festival set, that’s probably not the best place to do it. If you have a longer set, I think it’s almost expected. When it becomes too perfect and too linear, it’s playing it too safe. I’m guilty of doing that every now and then, but I try and push myself.

Getting back to the vocal aspect, I notice the music you make, tends not to have vocals in it as well.

I find it hard to use it without it becoming too cheesy in a way. Since I already like to put in a lot of melodies, adding some vocal hook is difficult. It will have to be stripped-down track to make that work, but I don’t make that much stripped-down music.

Does it also relate to your DJ sets, do you tend to steer clear vocals?

Yes for sure. It’s a little bit boring. It’s easier to play a track I grew up with, but with the new stuff… I don’t know why I’m so hung up on it. There is a lot of great dance music with vocals in it, but it becomes too much of a moment. 

Do you feel that there should be a relationship to the music you play out and the music you make?

It all depends on the vibe and the night. I try and keep it fresh, because there might be people coming to two shows in a short period of time, so I try to play different from the last time they saw me. I try to play my own music and I know which tracks work well with other ones. I tend to go through my older songs as well. For me it’s more about showcasing my own music and throw in music from friends. A lot of it is stuff that I made or put out on my label. 

 

Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones – Across the Stars Love Theme

 

You can say what you want about the trilogy that George Lucas directed, but the score that John Williams wrote for it is some of my favourite pieces of music. It’s kind of crazy how important he has been not only to the music world, but the film world as well. What would Jaws be without that taunting score, Star Wars without its iconic melodies and Jurassic Park without its theme song. 

It’s all music that is either orchestral or formed from some organic sources. Is this something that you naturally gravitate towards?

I wouldn’t say so. I listen to all kinds of music. I can appreciate everything. 

Ok, so it was just for this particular selection?

Yes, it might come from me really loving that movie, and maybe that’s why it made such a big impression on me. It suits the movie and the vibe, but there’s nothing about the choice of instrument or anything like that. 

This is a very or orchestral track.

Yes, I was trying to avoid any obvious dance music references like Blade Runner. I thought it would be fun to share a little more unexpected stuff. 

You mentioned Blade Runner there and the first thing my mind goes too, when it comes to soundtracks is Vangelis.

It’s never been a soundtrack that made a big impression on me, but I can understand why it did on some people. I was more of a Star Wars guy when I was younger. I obviously loved Blade Runner, but I don’t have that same nostalgic feeling for the movie. 

 

Lord of the Rings – Main Theme

 

The Lord of the Rings books will always hold a special place in my heart. I read them during a great period in my life being a kid, soon turning into a teenager. I was skeptical when they announced Peter jackson was making the trilogy considering his previous movies, but obviously he blew it out of the park and completely delivered. Going to the cinema to watch those movies (me and my friends would stand in line for hours before tickets were released just to get the first showing at midnight) is some of my fondest memories. The music really added to the epicness. I feel like rewatching all of them just talking about it.

Do you think if this music simply existed on its own, without the visual  aspect, it would have made the same impression on you?

Probably not. They both work hand in hand. The music is made to elevate the feeling in whatever is happening in the movie without taking up too much space. I don’t think I would’ve felt the same about it if I heard it out of context. 

You mentioned Lord of the Rings had some influence on you as a teenager. Was that when you were starting to make music as well?

No, this was before that. I think, apart from the first song and the Hanz Zimmer one, the thing that they have in common is that they are very nostalgic for me.  I think nostalgia is one of the best feelings you can get from music. 

Do you have the same relationship to electronic music you were exposed to at that age?

Some of it for sure.

What were the early influences that encouraged you to start making music?

Well I grew up in Stockholm and it was during that time when Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso were coming up. They became local heroes for people and me included, I guess. Then it felt less far-fetched as something that you can do. When I was into Hip Hop before I got into dance music, you would go to a concert and it just felt like that’s not something I’m going to do ever. But when you went to a sweaty club with 200 people in your hometown, they just show up like everyone else, going through the main entrance, you think; “maybe it’s something I could do.” Because I was into music and into computers as well, I thought I should  try it out.  

I think I should wrap it up Jeremy, and there’s only one burning question. If you would be asked to soundtrack a film, what film would it be?

It would probably have to be something that takes place in space or some sort of Science Fiction. Here again the obvious one would be Blade Runner, but maybe Arrival would’ve been cool.

 

Your 15 minutes are up with David Dajani

“It’s like Andy Warhol said, everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes, except today everybody will be a DJ for fifteen minutes.” David Dajani breaks out in a snigger as he rolls into the second phase of his sentence. There’s a kind of mischief in his voice, like he’s taunting an imaginary audience, and even though what he’s saying asks some very serious questions of DJ culture in our contemporary society, he simply shrugs it off. “It’s a whole different ball game, but I don’t feel intimidated by it.”

There’s no reason he should feel intimidated, because David Dajani certainly doesn’t subscribe to the hyperbolic image that crowds the booth today. For the best part of the last twenty years he has focussed on a niche aspect of DJ- and record culture in Norway, where his sets can go between the eclectic (from psychedelic fusion sounds of Africa to the provocative Black Metal sounds of Norway) to the functional (from the jazz-informed House of Moodymann to the proto-Hardcore sounds of 90’s UK Techno). 

David Dajani might have rose to prominence as the frontman for the anarchic Garage punk outfit PRTLVX (formerly Pirate Love), but a promiscuous youth spent digging for contemporary House and Techno and a lifetime of playing records in and around Oslo, has established the artist and DJ as a prominent figure in the booth. He thrives in the obscure left field depths of the scene alongside the likes of Raymond T. Hauger (DJ Lekkerman) to become a distinguished individual in a counter-culture conducted from the DJ booth.

It’s possibly why he seems so unperturbed by the latest DJ craze, because if anything it simply  gives him more agency to cultivate his particular brand of DJing in the last remnants of an underground culture that has been by and large exploited by a generation of DJs on their quest for 15 minutes of fame. 

“Right now it’s a trend and it was the same in 1998,” says David of a time when “everybody had turntables for two years” before moving on to the next craze. “People that were DJs from that era, I can probably count on two hands today, and they were hundreds back then,” and David suspects the same will happen again as the popularity in DJing wains in the near future. He’s seen it all unfold before in a career that started back in the mid nineties where a teenage David was discovering a world of music locked in the grooves of the vinyl format.

Although it was through the noisy confines of Rock where David would eventually leave his mark, it was actually House and Techno that first encouraged the future frontman and DJ to explore music. David grew up in Hurdal, a twenty minute train ride from Oslo in what is essentially rural farmland. It’s a “secluded” town, but it’s accessible proximity to Oslo put David in reach of the metropolitan delicacies of a big city. By his own account he hardly grew up in a musical family and it was the radio that would introduce David to electronic music.

Saturday nights, he would tune into Pål Strangefruit and Olle Abstract’s shows on national radio, where the DJs would introduce the Norwegian population to the sounds of House and Techno from around the world. “It just blew my mind,” remembers David vividly and it was those sounds and the video for Goldie’s “Innercity life” that encouraged David to ask his parents for a set of turntables when he turned 12.  “When I got the turntables I put on a Louis Armstrong record and a Temptations record,” recalls David. “I put them on simultaneously and I was like, ‘what… this doesn’t sound like drum n bass.’”  

With no prior knowledge to DJing and at a decade to early for the instructional you-tube video, David assumed DJing was about “making music” with a pair of turntables. He quickly understood the mechanics of DJing after his initial gaffe and when he realised it was about playing other people’s music, it was something of a eureka moment for the latent DJ. “I realised I don’t need to make music,” says David in wide-eyed stare. “I was perfectly fine just playing other people’s music and to this day, that’s what I like the best.”

He would make regular trips into H&S records in Oslo where “they had a huge floor of House and Techno, Trance, Drum n Bass and probably some Hip Hop too,” accumulating records he heard on Abstract and Strangefruit’s shows. With 200kr in his pocket at a time when records cost 90kr, he “could only afford 1 record” at a time. He would “spend five hours in the listening booth” to pick one record and then take the train back home where he would devour the record. He was immediately taken by records like Moodymann’s Brown Mahogany, “the 17 minute 12” version on KDJ” and for reasons still unknown to him today, that’s the music that still resonates with him. Although his mother played church organ, there was hardly a musical background, but David “felt I understood it instinctively from the first time I heard it.” 

He spent his late teens buying contemporary House and Techno records like these and by the time he turned 15 he and some friends started their own label called Groovecentral Recordings. Why a label? “You don’t ask those questions when you’re young,” says David with a smirk. David and his cohorts weren’t really trying to “intellectualise” it at that point, they were just a bunch of kids with a passion for music .”We were blue-eyed, and we were really into it, so we weren’t thinking in any rational way about it.” In naïve optimism they pressed 300 copies of their first record, expecting H&S records to pick up the bulk of the order. The store took 10 copies, and the rest were resigned to boxes that are still sitting in David’s mother’s garage today.

Spurred on by sheer youthful exuberance, they did however manage to sell most of their second release and in the 2 years of the label’s existence, Groovecentral Recordings released eight records, including Nils Noa’s first record, “a kind of ethnic House record” recalls David. Groovecentral Recordings would largely be a Drum n Bass label which was the style-du-jour of that period, and by the time the label ceased operations, David too would drift away from club music.

David was still in high-school when the label came to its conclusion, providing the impetus in part for him to explore record stores beyond the electronic music isles. “I started with Rock music pretty late,” says David. It was in high school during the early 2000s at the age of 17 that he uncovered the likes of “Velvet underground, the Stooges and the Ramones, Suicide and New York Dolls.” It was music that “fuelled me in a different way,” explains David. Rock had also offered an escape from House and Techno, which in the early 2000’s had succumbed to allure of popular culture. Groups like Stardust and Basement Jaxx were flirting with chart success while artists like Thomas Bangalter and Armand van Helden were becoming household names “And then they became huge,” continues David “and everybody started copying those Disco House sounds.” At the same time “Dutch Trance was at its peak,” and for a DJ like David who revered the underground aspects of this culture “it was like; ‘what’s happening with the quality control here.’” 

It was during this time he would relocate to Oslo and meet the likes of Raymond T. Hauger (Beglomeg, Den Gyldne Sprekk), Gylve Fenris Nagell (Darkthrone) Emil Nikolaisen (Serena-Maneesh) and his brother Ivar Nikolaisen (Silver, Kvelertak) and Milton von Krogh. They introduced me to a lot of music that I hadn’t really heard before,” stresses David. It was in the city’s dominant rock scene where he would first emerge as an artist and a DJ. “In Oslo in that time, 2003, the House clubs from the nineties, the ones that were cool, they were all gone,” remembers David. “What you were hearing at Garage (the predecessor to Jaeger) on a Saturday at peak time was the Ramones and White Stripes,” but for people like David and Raymond, these kinds of playlists were just a little too pedestrian for their discerning, eclectic tastes and they started a club night called Knulldrøm, which ran for an impressive nine years at Revolver.

Can, Kraftwerk and Suicide informed DJ sets at Knulldrøm that could span the breadth between the exotic sounds of Nigerian Funk to the industrial clattering of Norwegian black Metal. Somewhere in the midst of this David thought “it would be fun to start a band.” He didn’t play an instrument, “so they said you have to sing… I didn’t mind.” David was the co-songwriter with Milton Von Krogh, who provided the riffs to David’s nihilistic lyricism. Together with a fleeting band of musicians, which also included Raymond on bass at some point, they released their debut LP, Black Voudon Space Blues, to some unexpected fanfare from the press. “It was quite crazy,” recalls David with the advantage of hindsight “a band that was as negative as us!” he expels. 

They released two LPs and a third under the pseudonym PRTLVX; toured extensively around Europe and North America; and were featured on the front pages of local newspapers and MTV during their tenure. People were saying “they can’t play but they are really entertaining,” and that’s all Pirate Love wanted out of it: “We just wanted to entertain.” There was no grand conceptual intent behind their music, and in their efforts to entertain their music quickly went from nihilistic Punk to incorporate elements of psychedelia and post-pop on their second LP, Narco Lux High School.”That’s our best album,” insists David, “but the European record company didn’t want to release it because it was too catchy.” 

Pirate Love’s short but electric career was quickly coming to its conclusion before it  really got off the ground, and meanwhile David was rediscovering the sounds of House and Techno in Oslo. “I started getting back into House and Techno around 2008” contemplates David and he suspects Villa had some influence in this decision. Before Villa, David’s sets were still very eclectic. “If I played a track by Bjørn Torske or Erot, people weren’t accustomed to that sound.” He started playing at Villa before it became official and saw the second wave of House and Techno in Norway gestate in the bowels of the basement club where it “has gradually progressed,” to a point today where it’s completely swung the other way and “you can’t play rock music.” 

During all this time, David’s approach to the DJ set remained unflinching. If being in a band was about the sheer entertainment value, then DJing was the complete opposite. “It’s not about entertainment for me,” answers David with an urgent severity creeping into his voice. “I just want to be in the darkest part of the club. I can’t fucking stand that Boiler Room stuff… I despise it.” At same time David agrees that “DJing and club culture is about people being entertained, but the role of the  DJ is too hyped.”

In some regards it’s the late nineties all over again, but it’s many times worse in the hyperbolic mechanisms of the internet and social media, where every DJ with a youtube account is a superstar DJ, but David’s seen and experienced this kind of hype before, and he’s just going to keep “doing what we did in the nineties.“ “I’m very adamant about finding records,” he says, “I don’t go to trushmixes and ask for track ID. I just dig and find cheap stuff that I don’t think anybody else is playing.“ 

Lately he’s been digging in the annals of breakbeat acid and proto-hardcore in a habit that started in his teens and has never left him. Whether it’s contemporary Techno or those early Moodymann releases, the record “just has to have a specific feeling” and although he can’t describe what that feeling might be, he instantly knows it when he years it. It can be a hook or merely a fx soundbite, but there has to be something innately “rough” yet “intricate” to appeal to David today. “It’s not based on genre or BPM” he elucidates and “it can just be a beat and a handclap.” 

For his upcoming month at the helm of Den Gyldne Sprekk, he expects to extrapolate in sets from psychedelic folk to Russian Synth Wave, while in search of that elusive “feeling.” Hele Fitta, Krass, Prins Pål and Rabbit Brown join him on his infinite quest during the month of November at Sprekken, a night which David Dajani defines as “anything else but House and Techno.” 

While the rest of the scene’s 15 minutes are almost up, it’s a DJ like David Dajani that will remain after the dust settles, and whether it’s the vicious sounds of Garage rock or the soulful interpretations of modern House, he will most likely be in some booth, playing music to an unsuspecting audience with formidable results. “It might sound a bit cliched,” he says, “but for me it’s all about the underground vibe.”

Tuning the room: The origins of sound systems on the dance floor

I knew that there was something unique about Jaeger’s basement when I first stepped down the old stairs into what could only be described as a cocoon of comfort. There was something cozy about the room that went beyond a specific aesthetic cue, like the log-cabin walls or the ceiling lights flashing in cue to the music, to something rather more subliminal. It was a feeling, the corporeal effects of something intangible. There as an immediate warmth that permeated through lower level of the club perpetuated in sound. In what was a sparse early evening dance floor with a DJ laying a tentative groundwork for the night ahead, the sound system introduced itself in an inviting coo that confuted its size.  

In the small room the sound system’s physical presence, rising up to touch the shallow depth of the ceiling, was anything but invisible and yet there was a subtlety to the sound the speaker enclosements. It was a very different sound system to those that had been dominating the vacuous warehouse spaces in Europe for the best part of this century where stacks on stacks of Funktion One systems would either confront the listener with a wall of sound, or completely dissipate into cavernous halls beyond the extent of its reach. Jaeger’s sound negated some of that aggression and pugnacity for a sound system that made you comfortable in an intimate space.

That was my introduction to Jaeger’s “Diskon sound” as I came to know it and throughout my tenure here, the sound system kept growing, shrinking and moving in a constant evolution that owner and resident Ola Smith-Simonsen (Olanskii) still refers to as a ”work in progress.” It’s been in a constant state of flux that has taken a life of its own as the venue, the DJs and the audience kept changing  around it and as it kept retreating further into the structural makeup of the room and the dance floor it’s allure is indistinguishable between these elements. And as Ola starts talking about the next phase of the system and the recently-installed bass traps settle into the walls, it’s an evolution in sound that refuses to come to any natural conclusion. 

“I want to finish this thing and hopefully I won’t,” says Ola through a wry smile. In an effort to continue an evolution in sound, Jaeger’s sound system is only the latest iteration in a history of sound systems on the dance floor, dating back to the 1970’s where three pivotal characters were setting a new standard in sound system design through the era of Disco. They were Alex Rosner, David Mancuso and Richard Long and what they established almost fifty years ago kicked in the door for what would become the acceptable standard in club sound systems today.

Before Disco, sound systems had been functional things made to project sound further than their natural sonic sources or for recreating sounds from recordings in intimate and reserved lounge settings. Early sound systems for venues were little more than modified public address systems while small, single-speaker monophonic designs dominated homes around the world. It was only with the advent of High Fidelity recordings in the1950s and things like FM radio, Magnetic Tape, stereophonic and the LP that the technology started to evolve dramatically. 

It was a time of new technologies and new terms like audiophile and discotéque. As the quality of recordings improved with the assistance of magnetic tape, and the new delivery system of LPs, there was no need for an entire band to entertain your audience, and as the use of records and later DJs increased in the era of the discotéque, it would require a more effective way of redistributing the sound in a venue and a culture of sound systems were born (not be mistaken with Reggae Sound System culture, which is its own article).

Leading the way in this new appreciation for sound in relationship to a dance floor and recorded music was Alex Rosner and the partnership he would form with one David Mancuso. Alex Rosner came to America, an immigrant and Holocaust survivor. He and his father were prisoners in Auschwitz who were spared the gas-chamber on the merit of his father’s skills at the violin. By the time Rosner moved to America in the 1960’s he was an engineer, who had found an ingratiating hobby in the newly developed field of stereophonic audio systems and a captivating ideology in the emerging world of the Discotéque, shortened to Disco in the US. “I like the concept of reproduced sound” he said in the book, “Last night a DJ saved my life.” Preferring technology over human involvement, he set out on a mission to create a system that would not just sound good, but realistic too. 

He debuted his first sound system at the world’s fair and quickly moved into working for Discos like Haven for whom he invented the first stereo mixer which featured the first ever cueing system, used by a DJ who is universally considered to have invented beat-matching, Francis Grasso. How was that for an introduction?

The mixer was called Rosie, because of its colour, and although Rosner would downplay the significance of his invention in a Red Bull Music Academy lecture as little more than a serendipitous result of being “in the right place at the right time,” DJing as we know it today would not exist if hadn’t been for Rosie. The Alpha Recordings mixer that is the centrepiece in every Jaeger DJ console today (including our bar system), is basically built on the same foundation of the mixer that would evolve from the Rosie, the Bozak. The Bozak DJ mixer, considered by many to be the first in an industry standard, was developed by Louis Bozak under the guidance of Rosner with the Rosie as foundation, but what the mixer represented as a tool is actually meager in comparison to what Rosner and David Mancuso achieved at the Loft in New York.

The Loft was David Mancuso’s literal home, a loft apartment that would moonlight as a gathering place for New York’s scenesters with Mancuso’s home stereo system providing the music. It wasn’t just any soundsystem however, but rather the formidable Klipschorn system. The Klipschorn design was regarded perfect for this application due to its power efficiency, directivity, dynamic range and low level of distortion, which meant a clearer and more powerful speaker. Although the speakers had been in production since 1946 and its design had remained largely unchanged, it was only in the hands of Mancuso and Rosner that the speakers would be used outside (well inside actually) it’s usual function in an application that is still in use in countless listening bars around the world where Klipschorns remain the focal point of  the sound system. 

“He had basically what was a home system. When I got through with it it was disco system,” claims Rosner in “Last night a DJ saved my life.” Between Rosner’s and Mancuso’s vision they created a sound system that soon set the accepted standards for clubs and discos around the world. It all sprung from the simple ideology that David Mancuso set forth in his mantra “you don’t want to hear the sound system, you want to hear the music.” The sound system for both Rosner and Mancuso was about perfecting that reproduction of recorded music on a dance floor and they realised very early on, that more is in fact more…

“It’s like money,” collates Rosner in a RBMA lecture; ”you can never have too much because you know you can give some of it away. Loudspeakers can never be too big, because you can always turn the volume down.” In one of Rosner and Mancuso’s crowning achievements at the Loft their combined efforts resulted in creating a tweeter-array system that helped spread those higher sonic frequencies more evenly and further across the room, so that even the person sitting in the back could hear every element in the music rather than just the bass frequencies, which naturally has the longest reach. Even though Rosner didn’t initially agree with Mancuso’s tweeter array idea, he soon came around when he discerned  ”the more you have up there the better.” It’s a sonic philosophy that’s still noticeably adopted today when you see towers of horns jutting out high above the DJ somewhere like stalagmites on a cave wall, but while it’s certainly helpful having all that sound on tap, it’s pretty pointless if it’s not pointed in the right direction.

Mancuso realised that the placement of the speakers were tantamount to the effectiveness of the sound. Nicky Siano remembers clearly that the speakers at the Loft has positioned in such a way that ”they put out the sound and reflected it too, so they covered the whole area and exaggerated the sound.” One of Rosner and Mancuso’s underlying principles in sound system design had been speaker placement. In one of Rosner’s most challenging system designs around that time, he became the talk of the town for a Casablanca party he furnished in a hotel in New York. The circular room didn’t encourage the usual parallel kind of speaker arrangement so he had to improvise. “We took this system and made a circle out of it, a whole big tower of speakers, all emanating outward,” he recalls in the RBMA lecture. “And I took some white gauze and covered the loudspeakers with it. They called it ‘The Bride’. People were dancing around the bride.” With no visual reference “people didn’t really know where the sound was coming from.” 

For Rosner, the Casablanca event was an exercise in how a “system could sound terrific in a terrible room” but in an ideal situation he would always prefer adapting the room rather than the sound system. “The room is usually the enemy, not the friend’ he explains and for him the  perfect room would always be a golden rectangle with no two surfaces running parallel to each other, but those are very rare occurrences in discos and clubs, where they occur in buildings with a previous life and function. “The sound is affected by the acoustic space,” and for a technician like Rosner, the acoustic space which was also a component, and something that needed to be tuned like the system. “The more irregular you can make the surfaces, the better the acoustics are going to be,” and in a natural extension of that philosophy today, this is fundamental to the Jaeger sound system.

The log cabin interior at Jaeger, the newly installed bass traps and the way the speakers are  situated throughout is Rosner’s theories in practise. It’s about tuning the room rather than the system. In fact, it’s about having as little as possible stand in the way of the signal flow of the system. 

Mancuso went to great extremes at the Loft in eradicating any unnecessary components between the record and the ear, with little more than a preamp between the record and the sound system. He believed that nothing should be able to effect or colour the sound of the record in order to get the most realistic reproduction of a record. That meant eliminating anything in the signal flow, going as far as not using any equalizers or mixers, leaving the signal untouched, and effectively the record in its purest form.

But that was the Loft, an intimate apartment essentially, which was too small to accommodate the accelerated pace at which the Disco scene was growing. By the mid-seventies Disco was kicking the door in to popular culture, and as people flocked to the music and the DJs, empty warehouses and commercial parking garages were being appropriated as dance floors. Big rectangle concrete boxes didn’t much inspire Rosner and Mancuso’s philosophy of tuning the room and a new kind of sound system started making waves in the scene, one designed by Richard Long.

Very little is known about Richard Long other than that he designed some of the best sound systems throughout the Disco era, including the one that put Larry Levan on the map at the Paradise Garage. A reclusive figure, he passed away from AIDS in 1986, and very few people knew him well enough during his lifetime, but when it came to building the kind of sound systems that Disco required, nobody could really touch Long, including his predecessor and associate Alex Rosner. “He struck me as a real devoted person, devoted to the craft” reminisces Rosner in a Red Bull Music Academy documentary.

It was Alex Rosner that introduced Long to this world, as a kind of fixer for his sound systems and it would be Rosner that would also inadvertently put him into business. In “Last night a DJ saved my life,” Francis Grasso described an incident where Rosner sent Long out on a job, and Long usurped his boss by outbidding him on the same job as an independent contractor. Rosner remembers it differently in the RBMA documentary. According to Rosner, John Addison (Studio 54) had phoned Rosner up in the middle of the night to ask about doing some work for him. Rosner swiftly hung up on Addison, noting the lateness of the call in what I assume was short conversation littered with expletives. Addison in all his ‘70s cocaine-fuelled cock-sured fury was not a person you would hang the receiver up on likely and put his next call in to Rosner’s budding apprentice effectively putting Richard Long and associates into business.

“Richard Long was always only about his business,” remembers Kenny Carpenter, a Studio 54 DJ that would DJ on Long’s systems and one of the few people that associated with Long socially. “He was obsessed with sound system and electronic design. He immersed himself in that. His mind was just on his business and I didn’t know many people that were friendly with him.” From the sparse accounts we have of the visionary, a meticulous figure emerges and that diligent approach to his work is why he is still regarded by many to be the father of modern club sound systems. “Alex’s sound was very polished, like going to the theater,” said Nicky Siano while “Richard’s sound was funky and down-home, and bass was always a big component.”

Richard’s crowning achievement would be his J-Horn design; a bass speaker cabinet that was designed to project the lower frequencies as effectively and forcefully as possible. While Mancuso and Rosner were concerned about the placement of the speakers and the room, for Long it was all about power and a system that worked on a corporeal level with certain physicality in the lower frequencies. “Long built bass and it was far superior,” says NY Disco era sound engineer Bob Casey in a Red Bull Music Academy article. He gave the crowd what it wanted. He put your balls up your ass.“ Long employed this model at the Paradise Garage to the greatest effect according to accounts. In the hands of Larry Levan, Long’s system would go down as one of the most devastating dance floor partnerships in DJ history. “When you throw a record like Loleatta Holloway’s ‘Love Sensation’ on in that sound system you hear some frequencies;” remarks Kenny Carpenter, “you hear some bass frequencies and some mids and highs that you never heard in your life. You hear things in the song that you could never hear again.”

Long couldn’t get a better business card than the Paradise Garage at that time, and the club became a kind of showroom for Long, where he would constantly adjust and replace components, most often when Levan got a little over-zealous and blew a speaker. Eventually Area, Bonds International Casino, Zanzibar in Newark, The Box and Warehouse in Chicago all came calling, and Long furnished some of the most impressive clubs in DJ history with sound. At Zanzibar they called Long’s sound system the ”earthquake system” for it’s sheer body-shaking power and Long even managed to tap the European market in designing the sound for Frankfurt’s legendary Dorian Gray. A Long sound system survives today on Coney Island in the Eldorado Bumper cars dance floor, but as you stare into a stack of bass cabinets, like the ones that tower alongside the DJ booth at Jaeger, that Long spirit is still very much alive and those initial Long designs are still very much in use today in some of the world’s most famous clubs.

All those components and philosophies that make up Jaeger’s sound, and for that matter any other club sound system that you’ve encountered in recent years, are a direct consequence of the work that Richard Long, Alex Rosner and David Mancuso did back in the seventies. The room, the signal flow and the awesome power that’s being projected over dance floors like Jaeger week in and week out is a result of the combined work of those three pioneers and all we are doing today is evolving the technology around the fundamental principles that Long, Mancuso and Rosner first established on the dance floor.

Øyvind Morken retires Untzdag

Øyvind Morken brings his long-serving Wednesday night to a conclusion, but stays on as a resident.

Untzdag has been a weekly institution on the Jaeger calendar for almost as long as the history of the club, and Øyvind Morken has decided to bring the residency to a close, to focus on fewer, more substantial events around the Jaeger calendar. For the past 8 years Untzdag has traversed the cosmic plains of dance music to bring a truly alternative dance floor to Oslo with Øyvind Morken at the helm. Bringing the residency night to its conclusion, next week, Øyvind is celebrating the life and times of Untzdag by releasing the first and only Untzdag mixtape via his soundcloud.  The mixtape which was initially intended to debut the residency, never saw the light of day for reasons unknown, and today it stands as testament to the true versatility of Untzdag and Øyvind Morken.

Together with Gaute Haaversen-Westhassel, Øyvind Morken established Untzdag, channeling that original spirit from the balearic isles into Jaeger’s courtyard, living room and basement where the soundtrack could go from Disco to Kosmische, from House to Electro, Ambient to Techno and Synth Wave to all in the space of a night. After Gaute left the concept to pursue a professional career, Øyvind Morken became the de facto specialist for alternative dance music in the city with his unique “schizophrenic” DJ style and a DJ guest list that always preceded eventual hype.

Untzdag and Øyvind Morken have taken us on an indcredible journey for nearly a decade, but all good things must come to an end and out of the ashes new concepts will soon arrive. Øyvind Morken will remain close to the jaeger family however and will continue to be a resident, but he will cut down his time in the club with playing fewer nights, but playing more significant events around the 2019-2020 calendar.

Øyvind Morken: “The train has reached it’s final destination. After eight years of holding down Wednesdays at Jaeger, I’m trowing in the towel, raising the flag and riding into the sunset. I would like to thank the whole fantastic crew at Jaeger for giving me a home away from home, and for putting up with me week in, week out. Also big hug to Gaute my co-pilot for the first few years. Respect to every artist that has played, and of course a big thank you to the people that came, danced, lived and loved. Friendships have been made for life. The last Untzdag will be on Wednesday the 30th of October. I will still be a resident DJ at Jaeger, but just not on a weekly basis. It’s been emotional.”

Throughout the autumn and winter we’ll be hosting some new club concepts and DJs on Wednesday nights… stay tuned for more.

A new Techno utopia: Bassiani after the raids with Kvanchi

“Everybody is surprised that the club stays open” Gigi Jikia (aka HVL) told this blog in 2017. Those words ended up being eerily prophetic when in 2018, Georgian authorities raided Tbilisi’s Bassiani and Café Gallery, arresting the prior club’s founders, amongst others, and threatening the ultimate closure of the venue. Bassiani and Horoom resident Tornike Kvantchiani (aka Kvanchi) was “at a birthday party” when he received multiple messages from friends asking; “what’s happening at Bassiani?” When social media confirmed his fears of a police raid, he headed straight to the club and was faced with a police presence prohibiting entry and Bassiani co-founder Tato Getia being forced into a police wagon in handcuffs. 

“Yeah, a lot has happened since then,” says Tornike over a telephone call about the events that transpired since the last time we spoke, almost two years ago. The situation was already tense back then as Bassiani rose to prominence as an international clubbing institution, promoting an alternative lifestyle in what was and remains a fairly right-wing post-soviet state. The fairly recent advent of club-culture in the Georgian capital, which went hand in hand with queer-culture and recreational driug culture turned out to be a bitter pill to swallow for the authoritarian state as they focussed all their efforts on the two actors lending agency to these cultures in the form of Café Gallery and Bassiani.

Before these institutions came along there was almost no club culture to speak of in the country and even the city, according to Tornike. When the nascent DJ started clubbing almost a decade ago “there were only one or two clubs in Tbilisi” and “it was a totally different situation.” Tornike’s introduction to the music and culture came via the internet in 2007. He had been listening to “rock and alternative music” for the most part of his youth, through what was a healthy cassette scene, but by the time the Internet arrived he had found an entirely new world had opened up to him.

*Tornike plays Frædag x 5 years of Bassiani with Mercurrio this Friday at Jaeger

“I started listening to Aphex Twin and it changed my perception and then I totally moved over to electronic music.” He delved deeper into the music, uncovering a history that extended back to New York and Detroit in the eighties and never looked back. He felt particularly “inspired by Detroit,” leading him on a path to Tbilisi’s very insular clubbing scene where Bassiani co-founders Tato Getia and Zviad Gelbakhiani were busy staking out a prescient claim on the scene. “Tbilisi was a small city,” back then for people like Tornike who were discovering electronic music, but it forged a tight-knit community, closing around their ranks, with little notice from the authorities. 

“I knew everyone involved in electronic music back then,” says Tornike including the Bassiani heads who started throwing their first parties around the city in unused venues. Tornike got his first gig playing at one of these parties and several parties later he became an integral part of the Bassiani team, first as the social media guru and then as a resident and head of the Bassiani and Horoom labels.

It all happened soon after, Café Gallery became the first venue “with an underground vision” in the city, laying the groundwork for Bassiani to open, which “completely changed the situation” says Tornike. While people might have been aware of electronic music, it was mainly “commercial stuff” and it was only really after Café Gallery and Bassiani opened that “people started listening to electronic music” according to Tornike. It’s reached a point today where people refer to Tbilisi as a “Techno City” exclaims Tornike through a wry smile, with new DJs and even a record store arriving on the scene over the last five years since the club’s opening. 

But with the rise in popularity came some unwanted attention. It was already “a tough and weird” political situation when I talked to Gigi and Tornike back in 2017, with unwarranted stop and searches happening outside of the club, in what Gigi believed was the police “abusing their authority” for financial gain. Tensions had been bubbling under the surface ever since and in the eve of May 11th it came to a boiling point when jack-booted officers raided the club. What were they looking for? 

“Drugs, nothing more,” says Tornike, but “when they raided the club, no-one was arrested for dealing drugs and they couldn’t find any drug dealers inside the club, only finding  2 or 3 grams” on individuals. The club owners were arrested too, without a warrant on some overblown claims of obstruction, which never resulted in any charges brought forward, but what happened directly after the raid, was a force of solidarity in a clubbing community that we haven’t seen since the time of the criminal justice and public order act. People like Tornike, who had started gathering outside Bassiani as the police were carting off their friends and colleagues, were protesting the arrests. “We were trying to figure out what was happening,” explains Tornike who  “didn’t even know which Police station they took them to” at the time.

The group that had gathered outside of Bassiani had started to mobilize and took their protest directly to a national level and the parliament building. It all happened quite naturally according to Tornike, a single collective consciousness in the face of oppression. They made their way to the city centre, elevating the protest  . At this point the group that had gathered outside the club was working together as one body. “It was just people that were left outside the club,” remembers Tornike. “They were saying we’re not going home, we have to protest this.” From there the protest took on a life of its own, as more people started to arrive, bringing sound systems, and waving banners with a unified message of “we dance together, we fight together.” It was a scene that resonated throughout the whole region and the clubbing community around the world as images of the impromptu rave-protest flooded social media channels.  

But is also brought an unwanted presence. While a fight ensued with police “who were trying to push us from the road to the sidewalk,” according to Tornike a counter protest assembled from an extreme right-wing faction, indicating that this was about much more than a simple drug bust. It’s part of a “big game for sure” intones Tornike today in a message that echoes former Café Gallery booker’s comment in Resident Advisor at the time: “It’s a fight between the Soviet past of this country and the dictatorship we used to live in, the police country we used to live in and the future we want for our country.”

“The whole country is looking at the alternative side,” explains Tornike and Bassiani, which is open to everybody from all denominations and sexual identities, has become a symbol for an alternative culture that directly threatens an incredibly conservative status quo that is currently running the country. “They are actually scared,” suggests Tornike because they don’t understand the culture and perceive it to threaten theirs. “So they stigmatise us,”with unsubstantiated claims of den of inequities and drug havens, when really their fear lies in the alternative lifestyle they promote, which includes homosexulaity and a more liberal political ideologies.

After a month long “investigation” by the authorities, which nearly closed the venue for good, and some hefty fines, Bassiani was allowed to open again. And while it seems on the surface that the issues between the factions have been quelled, Tornike insists that “it continues” and that “it’s not over.” It’s very likely the authorities weren’t expecting the resistance from the community or falling under the international media’s scope like it did, but it seems in lieu of being able to close down the scene, they are only applying more pressure. 

Those stop and searches are “harsher than before” says Tornike, with a constant police presence surveilling the club at the moment. “It’s tough” for someone like Tornike who is also trying the develop the scene, running the two first ever record labels under the Bassiani and Horroom banners. “We have big barriers,” he says in a breathy laugh, “but somehow we’ve managed to have two labels.”

Those “barriers’ whether they are the authoritarian forces, or simply the logistics of running a label from Georgia, have not diminished the presence of the club in the city, the country or the continent. As they celebrate five years of Bassiani this year, they celebrate it against all odds with the determination and zeal of the community behind them. Their fight might not yet be over, but as awareness keeps growing and more people find themselves dancing on Bassiani and Horoom’s dance floors over weekends, with music selected by DJs like Kvanchi, their force in numbers only grows. And perhaps in the future those numbers will affect real change in a country dogged by the conservative views of an older generation.  

Track ID with DJ Okapi

South African Pop, House, Kwaito and Disco from the late seventies, and up until the early nineties has garnered associations with a kind of disposal music under the catch-all term bubblegum. Made to be unwrapped, chewed and disposed of in quick succession, the music was only ever meant to satiate audiences for about a long as the duration of a song with labels, artists and producers pushing out tracks as quickly as they could in a kind of musical assembly line. Built on some rudimentary fundamentals of accessible music with an effort to work as efficiently and productively as possible, bubblegum was supposed to be a functional commodity, rather than artistic endeavour.

That at least had been the rhetoric about this kind of music and its artists for the longest time, until a blog called Afro Synth came along and re-approached this music with a fresh set of ears that heard something more substantial in the music. Born out of the esoteric record collection DJ Okapi (Dave Durbach), the blog turned record label and store started exporting this music way beyond South Africa’s borders. Through Afro Synth and his sets, Durbach has been tirelessly sounding the clarion call for South African music that would have otherwise  been lost to history. 

His work as a DJ is an extension of the Afro Synth ideology, bringing this music to new audiences, highlighting artists and records that disappeared into obscurity after their initial release. He’s revived music from the likes of Ntombi Ndaba and Olive Masinga, re-issuing records that have never been listed on Discogs and giving these records a second life way beyond South Africa’s borders. Alongside re-issues and compilations, Afro Synth has also placed a vested interest in emerging music from South Africa with its release of Mabuta’s debut LP, “Welcome to this world” and more scheduled for future release. 

Between the shop, the blog, the label and DJ Okapi’s sets, Afro Synth and Durbach has become a singular ambassador for these styles of South African music, garnering early support from Antal at Rush Hour. With the help of Rush Hour Durbach has brought these records out of dusty collections and back into circulation, making them accessible again for anybody with a vested  interest in rarefied music. 

Durbach has worked hard at cultivating a new following for this music and has recently put his efforts into bringing the sound further afield in a special tour with Ntombi Ndaba and Esa Williams. It was during this latest tour that we were able to get DJ Okapi over to Jaeger for a set at Untzdag and finally bring the Afro Synth sound to Oslo. The tropical sonic hues of the lively South African music kept the rain at bay in our backyard as he played through the archives, going from the deep grooves of Stax’ “Nothing for Mahala” to the energetic snares of “Finish ‘n Klaar.”

We were lucky enough to hit record on his set, and listening back to his set even shazam came up empty, so we reached out to DJ Okapi to ask “track id” and more in an extensive Q&A with the South African DJ.

I want to start by asking you about the last song in your set, “Finish ‘n Klaar”. I remember hearing that song being played on SA radio back in the mid nineties, but I’d completely forgotten it until you played it again. How did you come across this track again and what attracted you to it? Maybe you should also tell people what Finish ‘n Klaar actually means. 

This is Edward ‘Magents’ Motale, a famous soccer player in the 90s who released an album with a producer named Dr House. It was released on a label called Music Team, who I’ve worked a lot with over the last few years. I found the album when I started going through their catalogue. ‘Finish en klaar’ is an Afrikaans expression just emphasising when something is over. I often play it at the end of the night. 

This set came after a tour you’ve been doing with Esa Williams and Ntombi Ndaba, celebrating SA music from that era. What was the response like around her music and Esa’s presentation, and have you experienced an increasing interest in this music from the rest of the world since Afrosynth came about?

Esa has put together a band of UK-based musicians and made it possible for Ntombi’s music to be played live for the first time in 25 years. Over the past few months they’ve played 5 gigs in Europe (France, Netherlands, Sweden) as well as in Morocco. The response has been great and hopefully they’ll be able to put together a proper tour in 2020. Esa’s Afro-Synth Band will hopefully be a platform for other SA artists who I’m working with, such as Kamazu.

It was interesting seeing a European audience dancing to a track like Finish ‘n Klaar, especially considering this would have been completely new to them. What have been your experiences with playing these kinds of tracks to European audiences and their reception of this music?

The songs I’m playing are pretty much all either disco/bubblegum from the 80s or kwaito from the 90s. Kwaito is different to disco and creates a different vibe. Sometimes it’s easier to get people dancing with a few kwaito songs, although sometimes it’s the opposite. In the Netherlands or Belgium in particular people might pick up some of the Afrikaans words in a kwaito song, which might make it easier to get into.

Is this music that has always been in your collection or was it an extended period of discovery/re-discovery that led you to a track like Finish and Klaar?

I’d say most of the songs in my set are new discoveries from the past 2 or 3 years. Very few tracks if any I would’ve been familiar with more than about 5 years ago – except for a handful that were hits in SA back in the day, like ‘Tempy Pusher’. As a DJ there was a long period where I was only playing records. And kwaito records are often not in great condition so they’re not always good to play out. I started playing digital files after I started travelling more in 2016, that’s when things opened up a lot because I could rip songs from cassettes, CDs and DATs.

In general there have been specific events over the past 5 years where I’ve gained access to a lot of music over a short amount of time. At the same time it’s also been a gradual thing, finding a tape here, or buying a CD there.

That track isn’t on youtube and you can’t Shazam it either, and if it wasn’t for you playing it, it would be forgotten. It was a kind of disposal music, but through you and Afrosynth a lot of that music is living on. Why are these pieces so timeless in your opinion?

I think it’s simply the quality of the music – the production, songwriting, musicianship, lyrics etc. It comes from a time when pop music was more vital and more important than it is today, at least in a South African context.

Is all of it worthy of being released again, or are the pieces that you play just the best examples from this era?

Yes certainly the argument against both bubblegum and kwaito was always that they are formulaic, so one can expect that certain artists were more innovative while others were more derivative. There’s definitely a lot of music from that era that is middle of the road. It’s the same with any pop music. 

Are you still finding new, old pieces and how do you distinguish between some of the better songs and the stuff that make it into your sets or the label?

Yes I’m still finding new old songs and I’m always striving to add songs to my set that I haven’t played before. But it’s not always a case of digging for more records. Often I’m simply finding songs in my own collection that I haven’t really appreciated before. There’s a lot of music out there so any DJ’s sets are going to be what they consider to be best. In terms of the label there are other considerations too – will it sell? Is it available to license? Are the master tapes or WAVs available?

The music you play covers quite a large period from the late seventies to the mid 1990’s. Is there a process to the way that you find this music or decide what you want to play on a night? 

The music I play does cover a period of time but it’s also very specific compared to most other DJs. There is a process but it’s not really possible to put into words, that’s the beauty of DJing. In general I guess it depends where and when I’m playing, what kind of vibe I’m trying to build or maintain. 

You played Stax’ “Nothing for Mahala”. Øyvind was particularly interested in that track, and I imagine there is a lot of interest from collectors and enthusiasts like Øyvind about this music, but a lot of that kind of music has been lost to exorbitant discogs prices today. Is it exclusivity or something else that’s drawing these DJs to this kind of music?

Again it’s the quality of the music itself. It’s immediately familiar and easy to relate to – the musical influences as well as the lyrics. This song is a good example: the lyrics and the music are both super uplifting, even if the tempo is slower than what people might be used to on a dancefloor.

I suppose that’s what you’re doing somewhat at Afrosynth, trying to put this music in the hands of more people by re-issuing it?

Yes… it is frustrating for collectors that rare records can be so expensive. Reissuing is a way to reach a wider audience, particularly if one looks beyond vinyl to digital too.

I know that even in South Africa these records are getting super expensive, and that you’ve been finding most of that stuff on cassette lately. Is there a lot of music in SA that was only ever distributed on cassette?

Any SA music released up until the late 80s is generally easier to find on vinyl. But from around 1992 this changes and gets more complicated. In 1995 the record pressing plants in SA shut down, so any records after that are much rarer, as they would’ve been white labels or DJ promos pressed in Zimbabwe. That’s obviously when CDs came in too. South Africa’s cassette market was big and outlived most others in the world – until quite recently a lot of them were still getting manufactured and sold. So for music of the 90s and beyond, including kwaito and house, cassettes and CDs are definitely a better option to find music, rather than vinyl.

I’m thinking specifically of Doc Shebeleza’s “All the ladies” that you played; I see there was a promo vinyl, but I imagine the only way you’re coming across that track today is through a cassette or a CD version. As you dig a bit deeper closer to the mid nineties, is this the only way to find this music today?

Yes there is a vinyl promo of Doc Shebeleza but I’ve never owned it. I got these tracks from the label, probably on CD, otherwise just the files themselves. I do have plenty of kwaito records at home but the condition of most of them isn’t good enough for me to play them out. I’ll travel with a small bag of records but only maybe 1 or 2 are kwaito records. The huge majority of kwaito in my set is on USB, meaning it’s been ripped from cassette or CD.

Is there anything exclusively released on cassette that made it into this set?

I can’t really be sure of what songs may have had a vinyl promo, but songs in this set that come from my cassettes include three in a row in the middle: 

Kamazu – ‘Lorraine’ (51:00) 

Iyaya – ‘Was I Rite or Wrong’ (55:40) 

Alaska – ‘Hosherr (inst)’ (1:01:00)

Afrosynth has also released some new music from Mabuta. Is that a direction you would like to explore further with the label?

Yes, I’ll hopefully be able to put out more new music in the future, particularly from SA’s jazz scene which is really thriving.

And what else is in the near future for Afrosynth and you? 

I’ll be putting more effort into the label compared to the shop and DJing, so you can expect plenty more Afrosynth releases in 2020, and probably fewer DJ gigs. Before that, the latest release is a Shangaan Disco 12” – ‘Ta Duma’ by Obed Ngobeni & The Kurhula Sisters. Then before the end of this year there will be a six-track anthology by one of my favourites, Kamazu – and maybe even a chance for him to perform in Europe next year with Esa.

 

Album of the Week: Bjarki – Happy Earthday

A phenomenal and prolific recording artist; an incredible live performer and head of a trailblazing record label; Bjarki has accomplished all this in a mere few years, and he’s done it all on his own terms. His very first single “I wanna go Bang,” simply catapulted the latent super-producer into the mainstream, with one of the biggest  Techno jaunts of 2015 thank to Nina Kraviz’ Trip label. He quickly followed it up with three extensive LPs the following year, showcasing an elcectic array of sonic hues from the artist. From stark functionalism to freeform electronica, it soon became clear that Bjarki had an extensive palette when it comes to electronic music, and that’s before we even get to his work under aliases like Cucumb45. For the past two years, his label bbbbbb has been an extension of his eclectic musical persona, traipsing a fine line between the margins of the most surreal recesses of electronic music, channeling elements of Drum n Bass, IDM, acid and electro through the extensive discography of the label.

While the bulk of Bjarki’s work appears predominantly in the album format, he hasn’t released an album since releasing three in one year in 2016 until Happy Earthday via !k7 in 2019. It’s a format Bjarki thrives in as an artist, with some abstract narrative coursing through each LP independent of the last, while there’s some sonic identity connecting the artist to the music. Happy Earthday contains all those erratic rhythms, elusive textures and alien sound design that has  followed the artist through his records, but on this latest it’s more likely to draw comparison to what’s happening on the bbbbbbb label than those first LPs he released. For the most part Happy Earthday tones down the excessive indulgences into a more palatable down-tempo/ambient style and it’s only “(.)_(.)” and “Salty Grautin” where the record ventures into the kind of frenzied sonic whirlwind that we’ve come to expect from anything that would appear on Bjarki’s more indulgent tracks.

“Happy Earthday” sees the Icelandic producer channel elements of Breakcore, IDM and Electro into a record that truly stands on its own in current electronic club music dialects. There’s no retrospective approach, but rather something wholly unique with a vision on the future. Swimming in abstract sonic landscapes, where electronic sources chirp and twitter in some artificial intelligent effort in mimicking the natural world, there is something completely surreal about Happy Earthday. There is something uneasy about anthropomorphic electronics at first, like those Boston Dynamics robots opening doors, but as the album progresses, languid pads and billowing atmospheres impose a calming influence over the entire record.  The alien squeaks, squawks and rumblings  explore the furthest reaches of Bjarki’s sonic palette thus far, without over extending that enigmatic appeal his music always manages to exert over his audience. Delicate melodic touches and inviting textures, entice the audience a close to Bjarki’s work, but like the records that came before it shows yet another side to the artists creativity and completely disarms any preconceived notions about his music and his work.

A blatant disregard for convention: Beastie Joyce & Jørgen Egeland DGS takeover

Re-contextualising the dance floor from the purview of Thom Yorke’s lazy eye through a pair of Bootsy specs, Den Gyldne Sprekk has never been about conforming. With a shrewd gaze from the DJ’s perspective, Raymond T. Hauger (DJ Lekkerman) and his guests dig deep through the absolute spectrum of music every Tuesday at Jaeger for a “club night” that conjures salacious music from terrifying depths of some of the most informed record collections in Oslo.

From their thematic album nights to just a couple of DJs exploring the margins of an extensive record collection, Den Gyldne Sprekk lives in the abstract and thrives in the obscure recesses of record culture. 

In the month of October, DJ Lekkerman hands over the reigns of his weekly residency to a couple of stalwarts on Den Gyldne Sprekk roster, and two DJs and music enthusiasts that know the concept inside out. Beastie Joyce and Jørgen Egeland host another month of Den Gyldne Sprekk at Jaeger with a series of concepts that go from another KIZZ pøb to the blood-curdling sounds of Memphis Rap for Halloween as the pair resurrect their Funk Boys alias to invite  a host of kindred spirits to the lineup for October. 

Together, Beatie Joyce (aka Eirik Usterud) and Jørgen Engeland have an uncanny report in the booth, both complementing and challenging each other’s knowledge and record collection as they play together, but where their tastes converge and how it informs this month’s programme is still a mystery.  So we assembled a few questions for the DJ pair in an extensive Q&A that sheds some light on their October takeover of Den Gyldne Sprekk. 

Hey guys. Great that you are doing a takeover again. The programme looks amazing. Is there any kind of theme or subliminal thought tying all these events together in October?

Jørgen: There’s no coherent theme really. But we feel the program as a whole, stylistically diverse as it is, encompasses the essence of what DGS is and can be. From me and Luis (Beglomeg, Passe Tjalla) playing our favorite disco and boogie records to a night celebrating Hotter Than Hell, this sort of eclecticism and blatant disregard for genre conventions is what makes it such a unique club concept. 

Eirik: More than anything else, I feel like the DGS’ modus operandi is playing music you wouldn’t expect to hear at any other club night. We’ve had some angry and confused patrons unfamiliar with the concept demanding house and techno before (when we did our religious music night in April people were absolutely livid), but part of the fun is trying to get them on our side.

You guys will be kicking it off on the 1st as the FUNK BOYS. I feel like FUNK BOYS hadn’t been created yet by the last takeover and it’s a fairly new creation. What’s the idea behind that project?

E: Funk Boys was an idea I got around the time we were planning our last takeover. It occured to me that a perfect DGS format would be playing “funk rock” in a very broad definition of the term – one that includes Aerosmith, Minutemen, Korn and 70s Miles Davis alike. Then the name “Funk Boys” popped into my head and I couldn’t stop laughing about it.

J: It’s a ridiculous name and I haven’t stopped laughing since the first time I heard it.

And what sort of music can people expect from FUNK BOYS and how does it diverge from what you guys do individually?

E: To me the Funk Boys concept is somehow very broad and extremely specific at the same time. It basically sticks with a lot of the usual DGS mainstays of groovy hard rock and rock/disco crossover, but it has a more specific focus. And more slap bass!

J: The concept is a sort of throwback to Sprekken in its original form. When Raymond started out at Kniven his idea was to play quote unquote «hash rock»; hard rock with synthesizers and heavy drum breaks, poor man’s Pink Floyd and the like. We’ve chosen to focus on the funkier side of things and also include stuff like ‘70s fusion and the more rock influenced part of the P-Funk universe. Ole Øvstedal (Oslo rock legend and bar manager at Revolver) is joining us this time around which we’re both really looking forward to! The regular Jaeger clubgoers can expect to hear a lot of tunes they might not be aware that they know. From the opening drums of Mountain’s Long Red to Billy Squier’s The Big Beat, many of these records are mainstays in the sample libraries of hip hop producers, so it all ties in nicely with the regular music profile in Grensen 9.

KIZZ PØB returns! What is it about the band in your opinion that continues to draw old and new fans to their music?

E: To me Kiss is sort of the ultimate rock band. The original lineup was just perfect as this cast of characters and team of musicians – both a cartoon universe and a set of four great, distinctive singers of which three were great songwriters too. Great mythology and a bottomless supply of bangers, what more could you want?

J: Unlike Eirik who dressed up as Ace Frehley for carnivals when he was in kindergarten, I didn’t really start listening to Kiss until I was in my early teens. I’m not really interested in their makeup or all the staff around them. I consider them another great Michigan rock band, in the same league as the MC5, Alice Cooper and the Stooges. I know they’re from NYC, but still. Stylistically and spiritually they’re from Detroit rock city.

The Kiss army is huge and they have some very dedicated fans in Norway too, so it’s not the type of concept that you can take too lightly. Besides playing Hotter Than Hell in its entirety how do you guys intend to summon the Kiss spirit on the night?

E: Based on previous Kizz Pøbb experiences (the “‘Nasty 40 Party” in may and the Tons of Rock afterparty at Revolver in june) nothing is more fun than just listening to Kiss super loud with your friends. For the occasion I’ve invited a friend of mine who has ridiculously deep knowledge of pretty much the entire catalogue to serve up even deeper cuts than we could do by ourselves.

 J: I hope one of us ends up in a fist fight with a pissed off Kiss Army member because we insist on writing KIZZ with two z’s.

Why that album specifically?

E: In addition to the simple fact that october 22 is the album’s 45th birthday, Hotter Than Hell is sort of a cult favorite in the Kiss catalogue that both Raymond and I hold in very high regard. I think it’s one of their most consistent albums and it has some pretty weird songwriting from Gene and Ace in particular. The production is an important part of it too – it’s cheap and muddy in a way that sort of enhances the material for me, kind of similar to Black Sabbath “Vol 4”. Really sludgy and heavy, plus it sounds kind of murky and half-melted, like early Ariel Pink or something. If you’ve wondered why bands like Nirvana and the Melvins were so into Kiss, this album answers a lot of that.

J: It’s kind of an underdog in their discography. It doesn’t have a stadium rock hit like Rock and Roll All Nite or Shout It Out Loud. I mean, the most well known song from the record is a ballad (Goin’ Blind) about the relationship between a 16 year old girl and a 93 year old man. Kiss never got deeper than that!

This is also not the first time that you’ve done a Deutscher abend. What exactly does that entail? 

J: Have we done a German night before? I can’t recall, but there have been plenty of other nights with a country specific theme. Christophe Boulmer has had his soirées françaises and Raymond’s lawyer David Myr played an entire evening of Italian prog the year before last. There’s something special about a DJ set that’s completely void of British and American music, it breaks the mould in a way. When I lived in Trondheim me and my friend JT had a monthly club called Around The World in 33 rpm where we played music with a different geographical theme each time. One of the nights we only played records from countries invaded by Germany during WWII so I feel I’ve sort of come full circle.

E: Stay tuned for DGS Japan Night, that’s really gonna whip ass. Swedish night too!

J: I wanna do a night of brazilian music sometime in the future.

I assume it’s going to be more Krautrock than Techno?

 J: Over the years I’ve developed a bit of a distaste for the term krautrock. It’s a pejorative coined by British music journalists that doesn’t really say much about the music. But it’s gonna be on the kosmische end of the musical spectrum, definitely. My knowledge about techno doesn’t really go further than Detroit. 

E: Raymond convinced me to avoid saying krautrock too, and my techno knowledge barely even goes beyond Drexciya. Personally I hope the heavier, dumber side of german rock – Scorpions, Accept and so on – will be represented properly too, and I’ll probably play more Can on the Funk Boys night. I might even throw in some eurodance, it shouldn’t be too hip or tasteful.

Artist and producer Emil Nikolaisen is on duties that night. Why was he the perfect candidate for a German night?  

J: There’s a definite lineage from the German music of the seventies to his work with Serena-Maneesh. He’s also a great DJ and an extremely passionate and knowledgeable music lover.

 E: I’m looking forward to meeting him and hearing what he’s bringing to the table!

And from Disco to ”Memphis Rap,” you guys are really covering all the bases on this occasion. I know you both have deep record bags with a broad scope in music, but what usually draws each of you to music or a record?

 E: It can be anything, really. I spend a lot of time reading about music or getting tips from friends and checking out anything that sounds appealing to me. Usually I gravitate toward stuff that’s unusual and distinctive in some way, and stuff that’s aggressive or hard-hitting. It’s a big plus if there’s a big catalogue to explore and it offers a bigger aesthetic experience, which both Kiss and Three 6 Mafia do, to name some relevant examples.

 J: I hear different things in all the different types of music I like and can’t phantom being interested in just one genre. That must be like, only watching romantic comedies or only reading science fiction novels. Has to get boring after a while, right? When I listen to a Coltrane record I judge it by different musical parameters than a Slayer album or a Lindstrøm twelve inch. They’re vastly different forms of expression and you have to treat them as such. But if there is any common thread in my faceted musical taste it must be that I don’t really like it when things become too streamlined, for lack of a better term. I need a bit of resistance!

Where do your tastes usually crossover?

E: I feel like our tastes overlap more often than not. Jørgen can’t stand tooL and The Doors which I do like, but even there our sensibilities are similar enough that I fully understand why he finds those bands objectionable. When we did Funk Boys in july Jørgen even managed to convince me that the Red Hot Chili Peppers don’t 100% suck so that’s one less thing to fight about.

 J: Their records up to and including Blood Sugar Sex Magik are great! At least if you can live with the fact that Anthony Kiedes is a bigot with an IQ barely over 80. Anything they’ve made after 1991 is a waste of everyone’s time though. With that said I think the programme we’ve curated for october covers a lot of our musical common ground, but I know my taste in hip hop is a lot more conservative than Eirik’s. I generally don’t like anything that wasn’t made on an SP1200 or an MPC60.

Were the nights a collaborative effort, or are there any that’s specific to either of you?

E: The German night was Jørgen’s idea, and while I’m the one who’s really obsessed with Memphis rap it was actually Raymond who wanted us to do it for DGS. I feel like the planning has been a closer collaboration than the last time, where we sort of brought two ideas each. This time we’ve spent more time discussing it and going back and forth.

Memphis Rap is an interesting edition. It was also known as Horrorcore, but was that just because they sampled horror soundtracks or has it some relevance to the lyrics too? 

E: Absolutely. A lot of it is extremely violent and explicitly satanic. In particular I think the earliest Three 6 stuff is just a pure gleeful celebration of evil in a way you rarely find outside of the most murder-obsessed extreme metal and noise music.

J: Those early 36M records is quite possibly the most brutal music I’ve ever heard. The combination of youthful aggression, heavy drug use and an unhealthy obsession with the occult is a deadly combination!

Besides Three 6 Mafia, I’m pretty unfamiliar with the sub-genre. What would consider the quintessential Memphis Rap track?

E: Honestly you pretty much can’t go wrong with anything Three 6 Mafia put out in the 90’s, but when it comes to deeper cuts I’m particularly fond of “Watch Yo Back” by Rivaside Clique, featuring production and rapping by the legendary Tommy Wright III. The bassline on that track is absolutely crushing, just one of the most brutal, heavy tracks I’ve heard in any genre. Another one I like is “Bigga & Betta Thangs” by Playa Posse, produced by Blackout, who specialized in really dark and horrific synthscapes.

J: Eirik’s a lot more well versed in the world of Memphis rap than I am, but I think Da Devil’s Playground by Koopsta Knicca is a quintessential record regardless of genre. Coincidentally that record turns 25 three days before our Memphis rap night. But to recommend something that’s not by Three 6 Mafia: I really like Al Kapone’s third album Sinista Funk from ‘94. It’s a stone cold classic. Kocane Wayne’s verse on Still Locin’ Up is worth the price of that record alone!

Will there be any other aspect of this night to drive that Halloween theme home?

E: I haven’t really thought about it, but maybe we’ll invest in some decorative cobwebs and skeletons?

J: Can you get cough syrup and Mountain Dew through Vinhuset?

I think that’s it… anything either of you would like to add?

E: Come to DGS if you’re still looking for that blue jean baby queen… prettiest girl you’ve ever seen… see her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean. Rock on!

J: Hit me up if you’ve got an original copy of RBL Posse’s Don’t Give Me No Bammer twelve you wanna sell. Other than that? No, not really.

 

It just sounds better with Ian Pooley

Ian Pooley has been a significant figure in the electronic music landscape in Germany and beyond. From his early success as one half of T’N’I with DJ Tonka  to his work with Daft Punk and the sound he established as a solo artist for a whole genre of music, his career stretches nearly three decades and he continues to be a regular fixture in catalogues and in DJ booths around the world.  

A precocious talent, Ian Pooley was but a teenager when he and DJ Tonka released their first records as T’N’I in the early nineties on Force Inc. Pooley had found an early affinity for the machines and from those primal Techno sounds he and Tonka produced to the deeper sounds of House that he would eventually produce on his own, the eccentricities of the machine sounds had remained at the core of his music.

He signed to Richard Branson’s V2 records in the late nineties, and flirted with commercial success alongside Daft Punk and Mousse T. but remained closer to his homegrown roots than those contemporaries. He would carve out a sound between Techno and House music erring on the deeper aspects of the latter, with the stark textures of Techno ebbing forth from classic synthesisers. 

These processes are still fundamental to Ian Pooley’s records, with the MPC drum machine as the central piece of gear in his studio and music, including his next LP. “It’s been delayed for many reasons,” says Ian over a telephone call, but patience prevails for the German producer. “I think it’s totally fine, because when the time is right, it’s right. Once it’s out it’s going to be fine.There comes a moment when you realise that all the tracks fit together and now is the right time.”

I phone up Ian Pooley in Berlin after he played Jaeger to see how his set went. “It was great fun,”  he says while praising the set-up at Jaeger. “ I loved the mixer. I wish every club would be like this.”  Ian’s set stayed true to the sounds of his records while moving between elements of acid, R&B and Jazz. We talked about his set and more and his set is available to stream above.

How did you feel your set at Jaeger went?

It was really nice. I was a bit surprised when Ivaylo told me it was upstairs, in the yard, but it was nice and a really lovely crowd, who were kind of up for different things. 

Yes, I noticed there were some elements of Jazz,  Acid and some vocals in there too. Did you prepare your set as such?

My usual way is to listen to what the DJ is playing before me. I tend to I arrive an hour before my set and then I’ll know what I’ll play for the first four tracks and then I go from there. I think about how I can build the set and I watch the crowd. 

Ivaylo played before you, and I know you’ve played before in the past, so you must have known what the vibe was like?

Exactly. And right now there is a whole new generation of audience who didn’t really experience House music from the late nineties. I can see all over Europe where I travel that the crowd is mostly fascinated with that sound and for me that’s really easy.

That was actually something I was going to ask you about. I’ve noticed that this next generation is getting back to those early nineties sounds.

My theory is that everything comes back in 15-20 year cycles. It’s very up and down. People who are born in a certain decade always grow up, being fascinated by the music from that decade, because maybe they heard music like this, but not really consciously because they were too young. But it stays in their head and when they consciously start hearing music they are really into it. It’s the same for me being fascinated with Disco music from the seventies, because I was born in the seventies. 

What’s your relationship with the music from the nineties today? Because you were around, making the kind of music that they are hearing for the first time today.

Sometimes it’s a bit awkward for me to play, because they are really old tracks and I’ve played them a million times. But I always try to remember that for them it’s brand new stuff and really fresh. It’s cool that it’s coming back, because that’s also the way I produce.

Do you feel that the younger crowd that come to see you, know who you are and that they expect kind of Ian Pooley sound?

O ja. There are always people coming to me before and during my set to request certain songs, and it’s usually three or four songs that I expect them to request. It’s usually stuff from ‘98 to ‘00. And that’s ok, but there are also some people that know my current stuff. 

Are there different expectations of you as a DJ when you play back home in Berlin, than when you play abroad?

Yeah, because when I play abroad there are a lot of people coming to hear my music. And because when I play in a place like Oslo, where I would play maybe once every three years, for a lot of people it would be amazing if I could play certain songs. In Berlin, it’s more like a playground where you can play more current stuff and dig a little deeper and find gems for other people.

I suppose you know the community so well there at the moment, so they expect something different from you all the time.

No, it’s super open. There are no real expectations, and they are really open to anything. That’s what I really like about Berlin, I can test out new tracks that I produced or that people sent me so I can see whether I’ll keep them or what I can improve on.

So it’s a testing ground for your own music?

Exactly, and Berlin is always on the forefront so it’s always good to see where things are heading.

I remember there was a Resident Advisor interview where you were discussing the Brazilian sounds that you were associated with and how you were trying to get away from that label. Is this still something you are being associated with today?

No I made my peace with that. I was against it for so many years. I did this exchange 8 years ago, so that’s when it was still fresh. I produced those kinds of sounds in the early 2000’s to about 2005, but it was haunting me for the next 6-7 years. I had this moment in 2005, that I said “Ok, I really don’t want to do this anymore”. It was too commercial to push it, and it took me a while to get rid of this kind of image. Now eight years later, I’ve totally made peace with it, and it’s totally fine.

Do you feel that you need to have some sort of fluid conversation between the music that you play and the music that you make or do you feel that you can go and do a Techno set when you’re playing abroad?

O, yeah, I do that from time to time. A couple of months ago, I played in Los Angeles and I played a set that was Techno. But in general as a consumer, as a listener of music, I’m a bit bored with Techno. I think it’s reached its peak, and at the moment it’s just more loopier and everyone is just going faster and faster, and I find that Techno is going to go a bit down again. That happened in the late nineties, it happened in 2009, and now it’s been going slowly for the past  6-7 years and now I’m a little bit bored with it. So I think I’m more and more looking at House and raw organic House.

You make your music based on the same fundamental working processes of the nineties with those same machines at the core of your work…

Yes, I was one of the last guys to introduce a computer to my setup. I only did that 11 years ago. 80% of my tracks are made on the machines, and then I just hit record in Logic for example and finalise the arrangement. It’s just the way that I work and there are a couple of  steps that might seem unnecessary for new producers, but it’s just the way I work, and there is no reason to change.

The reason I brought that up, is that those raw House sounds that you talked about is naturally conducive to those machines.

Exactly, it comes naturally. That’s how they sound. That’s what I like, that’s the thing I want to achieve. The core of my setup is a MPC3000, the software is from 1995. A lot of people ask me why I don’t use the new ones, it’s better to store your samples and your sound banks and bla bla bla. I always sample from scratch, when you turn the machine on there are no sounds, and it just sounds better. 

So where does the evolution in your work comes from if you’re using the same methods and machines that you’ve used since the nineties?

I don’t know. In the nineties I worked really fast and really raw. In the nineties you couldn’t really open and close an arrangement, like you can now with Logic and your computer. If you wanted to keep your track, you had to record in that moment. So the tracks sounded even more raw with less elements. And some tracks you can hear mistakes that other people don’t hear but I hear. So these days, I tend to spend too much time in the arrangement, like everybody else. 

So I would say, these days the arrangements are more refined and there are more elements, but all and all, when people ask me, I can’t tell you, because I just do my music and I’m happy that recognise my music when they hear it. It means that I can have some kind of signature to my music, but how I do it, I really don’t know. I just sit in the studio and work.

Do you consider yourself a veteran of the scene in that respect?

Well there are a lot of people that mention this all the time, that’s just not my style. I’ve been doing this since 1991, since the scene started and a lot of people said that Icreated the genre that sits between House and Techno in the mid nineties, and then I did the more French stuff , working with Daft Punk. I could say it, but I’d rather be known for the stuff I’m doing right now, sitting in the current scene with the new producers. 

That’s the advantage of electronic music, it’s essentially ageless. The voice of the music is the voice of the machines and that can be as contemporary as you like it.

Exactly and I think that’s enough for me and I’m not good at doing PR for myself.

What was it like for you to work on a major label like Virgin?

I was with V2, there’s a huge difference. Richard Branson sold Virgin in the ‘90s and he decided to go back into the record business in the mid ‘90s and he founded V2. 

I didn’t know that. But it was still a big label, was there a lot of freedom there?

Totally. The only thing we ever discussed was which tracks we were going to release as a single.

You mentioned working with Daft Punk earlier and I know you’ve worked with Mousse T. too, and what I do find interesting about your career is that where those contemporaries went in a very pop direction you managed to stay fairly close to the roots of the music. Was that a conscious decision on your part?

Well I had a few attempts. Back then it was the sign of the times to go a bit more commercial, because House tracks were entering the charts. So I did one or two things that in hindsight I shouldn’t have done, but luckily they didn’t get the attention.

I think it was totally cool what they did. Mousse T. wasn’t just a great House music producer, he was a great pop/rock producer before that. With Daft Punk I knew that they always wanted to go down that road, because they’ve been huge fans of ‘70s soul and funk. I knew they wanted to test if they could pull it off and it worked out really well for them. 

Setting the record straight on Tony Humphries

There’s always been a kind of revisionist rhetoric underpinning the history of music. Ever since we first established it as a bonafide subject of study, subjective opinion has overwhelmed fact. Whether it’s the points of contention between the origins of Techno or the emergence of blues in the UK, we’ve continually morphed and adapted musical history to suit contemporary thoughts in an effort to neatly organise often quite random musical anomalies. In the 20th century with the advent of the music- media and business this issue expounded as journalists, critics and record companies compartmentalised music into palatable categories defined by trend or stylistic trait even if it meant eschewing the reality of the situation. 

Dance music for all its subcultural worth has not been spared any adaptation either as lines started to form in the sand with the advent of House music. What was in fact a fluid movement from one sound to the next and occurring simultaneously across borders and musical jurisdictions, were broken up into factions, genres and styles. The results amongst countless others were that the sound of House in Chicago differed vastly from the sound of House in New York and Techno was the creation of three Belleville citizens, rather than the influence of Kraftwerk on a whole bunch Detroitian kids experimenting with synthesisers and drum machines. Journalistic enthusiasm and financial greed influenced the narrative of electronic music, continually revising and adapting the plot to the subjective impulses and/or ambitions of the various parties involved. 

Case and point: an article on the Red Bull Music Academy blog that posed “the convoluted story behind the discovery and remixes of the classic gospel record”. That record? The Joubert Singers and the supposed Larry Levan remix of that song. When a mysterious white label appeared in 2003 with an unreleased mix of the original it embellished the origins of the record with “LARRY 02” emblazoned on the centre disc, hinting in no obscure way, to Larry Levan and essentially accrediting the record to the Paradise Garage DJ posthumously. But no such remix ever existed and the article goes to prove that what we’re actually listening to is one of the original Tony Humphries mixes and elucidates how LARRY 02 officially became the Larry Levan remix for an entire generation of critic, DJ and music enthusiasts with Tony Humphries almost completely written out of the story. Larry Levan had always cast a long shadow over Disco and House, and curiously this would not be the only time it over-reached the legacy of Tony Humphries. 

Tony Humphries was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and started collecting records at the age of ten. It’s fair to say he was almost born into a career in music. Encouraged by his Columbian father, who himself had been a musician performing with artists like Tito Puente, and a host of relatives who had forged careers in the performing arts, Tony Humphries grew up into music through the 60’s and seventies. His afro-latin American roots formed the foundation of his musical education with an emphasis on blues, gospel and salsa soundtracking his formative years, while he was becoming familiar with the idea of the DJ. It would be the mobile DJ movement and specifically Jonathan Cameron Flowers that would influence Tony Humphries to indulge a career as a DJ. Flowers, later known as Grandmaster Flowers  was the “the single most important mobile DJ to come out of the US” according to a Humphries in Traxsource interview, which played no small part in establishing the Humphries’ career. 

Humphries, unlike like Levan, would set forth on a path as a DJ, not via a club or residency but rather through radio, and a significant chance encounter. Meeting Shep Pettibone, who at that stage was hosting the Mastermix show on Kiss FM, Humphries found himself taking over from the music legend with a single mixtape. Humphries took over from Pettibone in 1982, which was around the same time he would firm up the other part of his enduring legacy as a resident at club Zanzibar – Newark New Jersey’s equivalent to the Paradise Garage. Although Tony Humphries had held a few residencies, most notably at AZZ, it was at Zanzibar that his fate would be sealed. In an interview with Stamp the Wax Tony Humphries recalls the fateful events that lead up to his residency: “I made myself available to the residents there for about 6 months, filling in at various parts of every night, sometimes closing the night, and packing their records away safely.” The manager took note and realised the young DJ’s kind-hearted nature was being abused and installed him as a resident at Zanzibar. “That’s how I got the Wednesday night residency.”

Tony Humphries’ Wednesday night residency has gone to live on in DJ lore, but it’s always been kind of overshadowed by what was happening at the warehouse in Chicago and the Paradise Garage in New York. Although he sound of House has largely been attributed to those places, Humphries believes “it was more simultaneous than that” according to Skiddle interview. “The tracks coming out of Chicago made it a lot easier to do blends with R&B records”, elucidates Humphries in that same interview, but that only made up a small portion of the records being played on a night. House wasn’t just House, it was Disco, R&B and even Funk, and in New Jersey it also included a whole lot of Gospel. There would not have been enough House records in the world that time to fill the 3-6 hours the DJs like Humphries would have played in those days, so he  took a lot from the generation before him, who had brought Disco and characters like David Mancuso in to the world. Humphries would take note of them and established an eclectic style of mixing that incorporated things like “overlay mixing”; blending instrumental tracks with vocal records across genres, in a style of DJing that would be called House, based on the warehouse out of Chicago, where Frankie Knuckles held his residency. House was more a feeling than a style then and what we know as those 4/4 kicks and syncopated hats is the product of years of sublimation of a whole spectrum of musical genres. 

What was happening in Chicago was happening perpendicularly in New York and New Jersey, with the only real difference being that Chicago were the first to produce the records that started to distil that sound of the DJs that were House through labels like Trax and Strictly Rhythm. In New York the sound was coined Garage, in reference to the Paradise Garage. Tony Humphries was a fan of Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage and would spend his days prior to Zanzibar “mesmerized” by the older DJ’s “ability and stamina” according to the Stamp the Wax interview. Humphries was obviously influenced by the Paradise Garage’s resident and the long eclectic sets he would become known for in New Jersey is in part due to Levan’s remote influence, but the genre that would become known as Garage and would be closely associated with Levan, might not have anything to do with the Paradise Garage at all. 

Garage “came to refer to the more soulful, more jazz- and gospel inspired side of House” according to Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton in the book “Last night a DJ Saved My Life”. But the fact that it actually came from New York is a misnomer according to authors. What we know as Garage today, the high energy vocal tracks with jazzy instrumentals and crisp hi-hats, is actually just the “Jersey Sound” according to Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, and it “owes its emergence to Tony Humphries” they claim. Although the Paradise Garage inspired what Zanzibar would become and Tony Humphries idolised Levan, what Zanzibar and Humphries created and encouraged through the club and the artists like Kerry Chandler, Blaze and Smack Productions who passed through its doors would leave an irrevocable mark on House music and indeed get back to Levan, which the media and record companies would consequently call Garage. 

So Garage is the Jersey Sound and Zanzibar emulated New York, and one of Larry Levan’s most famous remix was actually mixed by Tony Humphries. So did Tony Humphries inadvertently invent House music with the world’s first disco edit? Well, according to Mathhew Collins’ book, Rave-on it was Derrick Carter that made the first proto House record called “on and on,” but that too is just conjecture depending on which perspective you choose. Perhaps it was in fact Talla 2XLC that invented Techno in Germany in the eighties rather than the Belleville three. Whichever way you cut it, there are those that have left legacies and an emphatic imprint on music, and Tony Humphries is one of those characters. 

Going through his discography and the multitude of production credits that have been credited to him, he’s had a hand in everything from the origins of Disco to R&B music, going from obscure whitelabels to chart-topping singles. His story might have been conflated over the years, and he being a humble character might not have been that eager to set the record straight, but his significance on music today can’t simply be ignored. Tony Humphries has made an indelible mark on the history of House music, but the significance is far greater than the common conjecture might have us believe and it’s time to set that record straight.

 

*Tony Humphries returns to jaeger this Frædag.

Basketball House with Double Dancer

*Photo by Daria Chesnokova

Basketball House is the obscure musical phenomenon from a pair of Norwegian super-producers and avid basketball fans. As far as we know Double Dancer and DJ Dog are the only artists currently indulging the genre through their label, and the exclusive vehicle for the sounds of basketball House, Rebound Lounge.   

Over three releases, about one for every year of the label’s existence, Rebound Lounge have been channeling the sounds of Double Dancer and DJ Dog’s collaborative efforts onto the dance floor through records that flit between House music’s bouncing grooves and the frosty electronics of Norwegian Disco. 

Adopting the pseudonyms Double Dancer and DJ Dog, Eirik Fagertun and Peter/DJ Fett Burger respectively have developed a style of House music together with a focus on the dancefloor imbued with the physicality and repetition of sport. Sparkling melodies, strenuous acid workouts and marshalled beats have so far been distilled down into fifteen tracks covering three releases that sound very different than either artist’s solo efforts. 

Their latest release, Rebound Lounge 3 bristles with the same airy melodies as their previous records together as grooves carve out deep trenches on the lower frequencies. From the pounding acidity of “Running the point” to the heady ethereality of “Naismith” it’s another versatile record from the duo coming together under the intentions of basketball House, but incorporating everything from House to cosmic balearic in their makeup.

As Rebound Lounge 3 hits the backboard (at Filter Musikk) and goaded by our recent review of the record for our cut segment, we reached out to Double Dancer to find about more about the basketball House phenomenon and the Rebound Lounge series.

You and DJ Fett Burger have been making music together under the term basketball House for a few records now. How would you define that style of music? 

House music that contains sounds from the basketball world is the easy definition. The sounds incorporated can be a shoe rubbing on the wooden court, a cheering audience, a yelling coach or a heavy slam dunk. Sometimes clearly audible, sometimes hidden deep in the mix. From this mixture the RELO sound is created.

You must be the only basketball House label around… surely?

 It is the only label we know of so far. And it is perfectly fine for us to fly solo in this endeavour and to be special boys. 

But I did recently find a former NBA star called Rony Seikaly who turned house producer and property mogul when he retired. Not quite in the same style as us but he also uses some basketball samples and djs in clubs around the world. I tried reaching out to him with no luck so far. I need to meet him.  There is a new documentary about him which is quite interesting, for me anyway. Here he is in his studio from around 20:40 into the video making b-ball house: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srNRJhK3nGU

So I assume you both play or have played basketball. How does the sport relate to the music for you?

We do try to play ball and sweat it out once a week but we don’t have any talent and are kinda shit at it. I would consider myself mostly a fan of this beautiful game. I love to watch NBA games whenever I have time. Go Raptors!

Sport and music are intertwined and relates to each other in a major way. Whenever you play or watch sports there will most of the time be music present in some form. And when you are creating or performing music you are doing a physical activity. 

The way that you practice, play around and repeat it to perfection, and also the whole rhythm of it goes for both sport and music. Both are rooted in events that are full of life, competition, celebration, and ultimately entertainment. 

How did you guys meet and what encouraged you to start making music together?

We first met in a sex club called Lab.oratory in Berlin where a fellow friend was playing. (You may know him as Skatebård, I call him Gingerdaddy.) 

But we knew of each other while living in Bergen at the same time but never actually met. Later on I booked DJ Fett Burger and his brother for a party I did at Soju Bar and we got to know each other better.

The project initially got started as something else. We were gonna make a short tool track together for Untz Untz Records. In our first studio session we ended up putting in a basketball sound just for fun on a track and we figured “Hey this is fun and we can do something more with this.” So we scrapped the initial tool (that was techno and later floated up on REL02 in a reworked version) and went full on with more basketball sounds from the second session on. 

After that it escalated pretty quickly with five more tracks, a new label/project idea, and the whole basketball aesthetics to go along with it. It got a bit out of hand. 

I didn’t realise you lived in Berlin. Besides the sex clubs what drew you to the city and how do you think its affected your approach to music if at all?

I won’t say the sex clubs drew me here, but you will sometimes end up in some funny places where you can witness things that will make your eyes bleed. The music scene, the long summers and the freedom to do whatever you like when you want to does have a strong pull on me and keeps me zane here. I feel that it is possible to extend youth a while longer down here in some way. And it is easier to withstand the pressures from the motherland to do all the things that is expected of you as the norm. It is perfectly OK to not take a big education, buy all the apartments and settle down if you don’t want to yet, even if you are paddling deep into your 30s. I believe it is quite fitting to throw in a YOLO here. 

As for the approach part I’m not sure how its affected by where I am, but more who I am around. All the music I have put out have been created here in Berlin with my dear studio partner Peter so he is crucial for me in my approach to making music and for me making music at all.

Do you guys make any music together under other aliases or have you worked on music before Rebound Lounge? 

No this is the first time we make music together and DJ Dog & Double Dancer is our only outlet for this music so far. 

 You are also involved with Untz Untz. What makes this project different for you?

The Untz Untz label which I run with Tarjei Nygård is different in the way that I have never released any of my own music there. Untz Untz is more about finding new and not so new artists and show them to the world. Funnily enough more or less all the Norwegian artist we have released have gone on to release on Full Pupp, so I guess you can call us a farmer league for producers. You are welcome Thomas! 

Me and Tarjei live in different cities now so we are not so active with the label at the moment. The last release we put out was in ’17 with Skatebård & Stiletti-Ana. But we might suddenly pop back with a new record in 2020.  

The music you guys make on Rebound to me sounds like its all built on a foundation of House, but there’s also that frosty Norwegian sonic element in there. What conscious steps do you take in creating that sound?

I wasn’t aware that we had that element. So its not on purpose. But there might be a more melancholic vibe on the latest record.

 It sounds like you guys improvise live and then later arrange pieces into the tracks on that record. Is that right and what’s significant about the working process with DJ Fett Burger?

That is correct in some parts. We improvise quite a lot and tend to use everything we record but we don’t record long jam stretches. So we don’t push the record button until we got ‘something’ rolling that we both think sounds good. Some riffs or loops that was unused from the first two release ended up on the third one also. So there is no excess fat in the folder ‘Ghostman & Eirik F’ where the music is saved.  

This is the third record in the series, and you guys have been bringing out about one record a year since 2016. What are the circumstances like for you guys to start a Rebound record?

 We tend to wait until the latest record is released and all gone till we start up again. Then we would watch some basketball movies or catch a game with our local b-ball team Alba Berlin to get in the mood. And then just start to jam on a new synth or drum machine that we haven’t used before.  

 Is there any before plan going into the studio together? 

No not really. We just see where it goes. And if we have a couple of tracks that could fit together after some sessions we set our sights on doing a new Rebound record. 

We are also open to release on other labels but up until now all the material have been used for Rebound Lounge except the remixes we did for Chmmr on Full Pupp. 

Are we going to have to wait another year for the next one?

Most likely yes. We have not started yet. But watch out for remixes and RELO parties that we will do more of.

 

The Cut with Filter Musikk

We don’t always go into Filter Musikk looking for music. Sometimes an aimless wander might take us through the glass doors looking for some innocuous conversation with Roland Lifjell from behind the counter. We know the risk we run whenever we saunter into the little record cave, especially on a Friday when a new batch of records have just arrived. Before we’re even aware of it we’re flipping through a stack of records, neatly organising a pile into possible new additions to our record collections, completely oblivious to the world around us.

We don’t even know how we got there, how these headphones are in our hands, how we arrived at a pile of records… hell we don’t even know who half these artists or labels are we’re listening to. Somewhere between saying hello and a cup of coffee, Roland has forced a bundle of records under our arm and before we realise, we’re adding a few of those to an ever-expanding library that’s already consuming our lives. 

But, isn’t that what it’s all about, indulging new experiences, broadening your horizons beyond the obvious. Surely we can’t keep listening to everything Strictly Rhythm releases or re-issues. We are grateful to Roland and Filter’s resilient and determined meddling, informing our continued musical education through the record store as the last vestige for truly underground music.

These aren’t the records you’ll find on your weekly “discovery” playlist or the records that make it past the ever-increasingly sanctimonious pay-gap of modern music media. These are records that if Roland didn’t pick them out for you, you would remain unaware of their presence. These are the records that make no real overt signal to their presence, very often only divulging  any information as to what they are in an invisible etching on the inner radius of a black disc. 

These are the records, handpicked out of a box of new arrivals at Filter Musikk by Roland Lifjell, this is the cut with Filter Musikk.  

 

Zeta Reticula – Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (Mechatronica) 12″ 

Nothing is safe from the conservative monotony creeping in on electronic music… even Electro. There’s been a surge of Deep- and Tech House “producers” that have stumbled onto the genre lately, applying their innocuous voice to a genre like a balding middle-aged man getting political on facebook. Nobody asked for your contribution and you’re not offering anything new here. 

Electro has had this covered all this time…there is absolutely nothing a hype producer looking or a breakbeat on Deep House EP could possibly do for the DIY genre at this point, so best just leave it alone and leave it to people like Zeta Reticula, who’ve been doing this kind of music since 2001 for established Electro labels like Electrix Records.

Zeta Reticula has maintained the fundamental building blocks of Electro in his work. Funky grooves, an evocative melody, a bridge-chorus-like progression and a futuristic eye for synthesis has followed him across two decades worth of discography and a myriad of aliases. With so much music and so many creative outlets, even an established artist like Zeta can lose focus sometimes and has, especially  with those cringing electro-clash attempts early in his career. 

“Formation of Life” however on his latest EP for the rather new Mechatronica imprint is pure masterclass. The bass figure running like train on autopilot; those bold swooshing pads and melodies with their heads above the clouds leave a remarkable impression.

He retains a similar cinematic approach to his music throughout the rest of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, and from the dubby delays of “Double Star” and the punky sounds of the title track they offer a few different moods to the fundamental designs of Electro with Zeta Reticula’s noisy and distorted treatment maintaining his artistic voice across the record.

 

Interplanetary Criminal – Sleepwalker Ep (Sneaker Social Club) 12″  

“Filter Musikk has become a breakbeat and jungle store” says Roland Lifjell with a grin. And yes, looking at the list of new arrivals, drum n bass, jungle and electro mark the majority of new records, even taking over from Roland’s Lifjell’s hallowed Techno as the majority of new music coming in this week. Like every genre today, these broken beat genres are also subject to micro-trends and fleeting-fads, but even those can have their moments like this latest EP from Interplanetary Criminal.

Interplanetary Criminal has been bouncing through various styles and microcosms of music since his first record in 2015, coming into the fray on the tail end of the Lo-Fi House movement with records for E-Beamz and Kalahari Øyster Cult. He’s dabbled in everything from Ghetto Tech to UK Garage at a rate of a new genre a record. If there’s anything consistent about the records Interplanetary Criminal creates, it’s that their not consistent, beyond maybe a penchant for nostalgic glares at the past and wispy textures.

For his latest outing he’s chosen breakbeat genres like Drum N Bass and Jungle as touchstones, spinning them into something more palpable for today’s audiences. Interplanetary Criminal checks off tropes as he channels those classic elements across four downtempo tracks. We’ve never heard James Brown that relaxed as snare drums roll past in slow motion and elongated pads drift by in a cathartic whine. 

The sub bass drawl is etched just a little deeper as a result and the entire record pulses along at a pace that gently coerces you through the tracks. Interplanetary Criminal loses a bit of steam by the time he gets to the finale and title track, but through the first three dynamic and versatile breakbeat arrangements this record makes a notable contribution to the ever-expanding breakbeat genre.

 

Forest Drive West – Static / Escape (Livity Sound) 12″ repress

Some records are so good they need to just stay in rotation and what we might have missed in the past can still make for a future classic. Take this record from Forest Drive West on Livity Sound from 2017. Deep, brooding bass lines, a muggy atmosphere and minimalist construction make for a record that just keeps giving. “Static” and “Escape” live on in infamy on this recent repress. Bordering on the cold UK sounds like Grime and the incessant rhythms of Techno, they mark two significant contributions to Techno DJ sets.

Forest Drive West produces this kind of record with the same clinical precision that UK artists like Blawan and Pearson Sound produce a record; everything in its place in a stark, frosty landscape. Cues from UK sound system culture like those big heavy sub-bass-lines and metallic melodies are stripped back and streamlined into breathy Techno workouts that instil just the right amount of temptation and fear in the listener.

 

Celestial Circuits – Autonomy (In A Spin) 12” 

Techno’s origins are rooted in inspirations from Science Fiction. Themes of space, the future, robots and dystopia inspired people like Derrick May and Juan Atkins to create Techno, but those themes have been lost somewhere in the queue to the club. Techno is all about being promiscuous and aloof today, and not nerdy and playful like it was intended. Somewhere along the line to Berghain Techno’s mandate changed into your uncle’s anorak, and started lecturing you on the correct tuning of a kick drum. Happily there is some relief in a group like this.

Celestial Circuits are pursuing the original ideologies of Techno built on spacey themes and futurist electronics. They’re called Celestial Circuits after all and over the course of two releases they’ve taken back the term Techno to mean something machine made, DIY, futuristic and not of this world. “Autonomy” is the second release from this unknown artist (or I suspect a duo) and it has a picture of an angry robot on the centre disc  – that should be enough shouldn’t it?

It’s a record that could also be described as an Electro record, but if you trust DJ Stingray, you’ll know that the two genres are essentially inseparable. Bouncing 808 kick drums; amorphous layers of a synthetic breezes; and lysergic chirps from a 303 bass machine, transmitting frequencies to outer space are contained on “Autonomy” and “Dark Sines.” It’s not some throwback Techno record however and here are some interesting sound design elements that continually crop up – some with greater effect than others –modernising the Science Fiction themes in the era of AI and interplanetary migrations.  

 

Suvatne – M.F.I.D.S (Sunlab) 12″

Sunlab is a new Norwegian label that is currently bringing a ray of sunshine to the dreary world of electronic music in Norway and beyond. The label and DJ collective comprised of a few young and eager artists, bubbling up through the ranks of Norway’s DJ community made a striking entrance when they made their debut at the beginning of this year with the Sunlab001 compilation.

It was all about B.2 or Brand’s “Juli” on a record that brought a little something different and forgotten back into the scene. With a musical approach nodding its head in the direction of early nineties Trance and Balearic and a group of producers and DJs that are even nerdier about electronic music than Roland Lifjell, they are doing everything on their own terms, outside of any trend-informed scene. They are back with the second edition to their quickly-expanding catalogue and a solo effort from Suvatne.

M.F.I.D.S are five tracks that expound on the first two the artist created for Sunlab’s original release. Airy melodic movements heading out into the stratosphere on the tail of effervescent kick drums streaking across the heavens define Suvatne’s sound across the five tracks of this release. At times he might favour a downtempo or ambient interpretation when combining these components but breezy melodies and punchy rhythms hold fast the Trancy nature of Suvatne’s music.

It’s a Trance record with that distinctive Norwegian approach to electronic textures, like a balearic arctic, if it existed on a different planet. It’s great to hear somebody that’s not doing brooding Techno or Deep House out of Norway and although Sunlab is mainly sticking to Trance for the moment B.2 from the last record might indicate a more diverse output from the label in the future. M.F.I.D.S will appeal to people looking for an upbeat rhythm and hedonistic tunes from their dance music, as it winks at you on its way to sunny isles of post-EDM Ibiza,

 

Lose yourself from Reality with DELLA

Exalted strings reach heady heights as syncopated hi hats flit in and out of earshot. A thin guitar strums through the shadow of the offbeats while languid keys drift off on some memory of a motif. Eventually a voice comes in, a whisper dissolves into an ebullient quaver with the simple suggestion; “lose yourself from reality.”

“Lose yourself from reality is the latest track from DELLA (Kristina Dunn) and Homero Espinosa where they’ve joined forces with west coast House monolith, Mark Farina for a single outing on Espinosa’s Moulton Music. A funky bassline, strings and guitar evoke references from Disco, which Farina and Espinosa repurpose in a progressive House metre. DELLA’s vocal brings the arrangement to life in the middle eight as she skips through the syllables of the main chorus. 

In the House tradition the simple refrain speaks volumes about a night out, in the embrace of a club soundsystem, losing yourself completely on the dance floor. It’s a feeling Kristina can relate to as a DJ and electronic music artist whose music career and work is ingrained in her formative experiences on the dance floor. 

Those experiences have resulted in two music careers for Kristina, one as the frontwoman for Norwegian House duo, No Dial Tone, and the solo career she’s cultured since as DELLA. DELLA’s primary pursuit is as a DJ today, fulfilling most of her obligations as a resident for Jaeger, where she’s nurtured a night for the last three years called DELLAs Drivhus featuring guest appearances from Honey Dijon, Tommy Bones and Homero Espinosa.

Between sets, DELLA has a full-time job and when she can, she’ll moonlight as a singer, lending her vocal to  friends like Espinosa and Farina. It’s her second foray on the Moulton music catalogue with Homero Espinosa and her second record this year. The record is out via Traxsource today and it’s accompanied by a mix from DELLA for Traxsource LIVE.

DELLA’s Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/djdella_official
DELLA’s Mixcloud: https://www.mixcloud.com/djdella/

DELLA will also be featured alongside De Fantatiske To in a Paper Music retrospective as the label turns 25 with a special compilation. It’s given us the impetus to reach out to our resident to talk about the present and future of DELLA, DJing and how to “Lose yourself from reality.”

 

Let’s get right to it… You’re about to release a track with Mark Farina and Homero Espinosa. How did this collaboration come about?

Hello, hello, yes I am about to release my next collaboration with Mark Farina & Homero Espinosa on Moulton Music out of Oakland, CA. The release date is 30.08.19 and is available for pre-order on Traxsource.com, so go get it! 

This is the second time I have recorded in the Moulton Studios with Homero. The collaboration was not intended, it simply happened. I laid the vocals down last year when I was on a short US tour, Homero flew off to Dallas to work with Mark on his upcoming album, Mark liked the vocals, and bam, we now have a killer track together. 

You’ve worked with Homero before, but is this your first collaboration with Mark?

Yes, this is my first collaboration with Mark. Frankly, this collab brought my DJ career in full circle. Mark was a DJ that highly influenced me in my early days in House music. He is a strong representative of the west coast sound, where I resided from 1999-2005. I have spent many hours on the dance floor with Mark behind the decks. He was also the DJ that starting leading me into the idea of wanting to DJ myself. I have immense appreciation for Mark and how he’s inspired me, now 20 years later, we have officially united in House music and it’s pretty f-ing amazing! 

This your second time working with Homero. What is it that makes you two so compatible on a record?

Homero and I totally bounce together. He produces pure House music that is true to the sound. We are both Househeads through and through, so it’s no surprise that we flow well together. He is also a great director in the studio and has a clear vision when starting a session. I absolutely love working with him and wish we were closer to make music more often together. 

How did  “lose yourself from reality” come together?

Homero and I met up in the Moulton Studios in the fall of 2018. We started talking about inspiration and he popped on Evelyn Thomas’ album “I Wanna Make It On My Own.” We skipped through the tracks until we both landed on ‘Back to Reality.’ He did a quick sample, looped a beat, and I hit the vocal box. Our intention was to make a late night early / morning jam. A tune that simply lifted the soul and was a reminder of why we do what we do. I dug into the feelings of how I feel on the dance floor in the wee hours of the morning and we pounded it out. It was that easy. 

Your lyrics always capture the feeling of a night out, and this track is a prime example of that feeling you get when completely enraptured on the dance floor. How do you usually arrive at those kinds of lyrics?

I’m a dancer first and foremost. I am not into this music for any other reasons other than that. I have spent an incredible amount of hours floating free on dance floors and I channel this feeling directly into my music. House music is a feeling, I guess I am able to relay this via my voice and with the words that come when I am in the vocal booth. 

Were the vocals the final piece of the puzzle on this track?

No, the vocals were laid first and then Mark and Homero worked their magic following. 

How much inspiration do you draw from the music and how much does the vocal influence the music when you’re usually working on a track?

I usually do not intentionally search for inspiration, it simply surrounds me. I listen to a lot of dance music and vocal music tends to resonate more strongly with me. When I am asked to do vocal work, the track is normally in the early stages of development. A simple beat and some chords. So, the vocal influences the track direction very much. 

Besides this release what has been happening the world of DELLA?

This past year I have actually taken a step back from dance music. My ears are suffering from Tinnitus and I need to heal them. It has been very frustrating. But, I will never quit this music fully. At the moment, I have this exciting release on the way, the debut of my Traxsource LIVE! Mix, my jam, ‘When I Want To,’ with De Fantastike To has resurfaced on the Paper Recordings 25 Year Anniversary Compilation, and I have two new projects in the works. I will continue to DJ, but I am taking things slow ATM.

There’s been a lot of collaborations for you in the last few years. Is there anything coming by way of a solo DELLA release in the near future?

I doubt it. I am not a producer and do not have desire in becoming one, but who knows what the future holds. I’ve always been a DJ, not a producer, and this is where I put my focus. I am happy I am able to bring my voice to the dance floor and right now this is enough for me. As long as I can keep on dancing and keep others dancing with me, I have reached success.  

I spoke to Carl Craig recently and he told me that DJing was the day job to afford the passion of making music. But I have a sneaking suspicion that’s the other way around for you, that DJing is the true passion?

There is a lot of truth in what he is saying, most DJs are out their hustling hard to pay the bills and to build their studios. I am lucky enough to have other passions in my life aside from my djing (building my natural skincare brand) so it keeps the music alive for me. I am now taking a new approach to my music. I am simply following what I love, have stopped letting the industry influence me, have stopped trying to “keep up,” and am taking it each day at a time. I am in this music forever, it’s not something that just comes and goes, you are either a lifer or not. I continue to celebrate House music and the music continues to flow. And this is my true passion, being to leave my ego at the door, step behind the decks, and bring the flow to my community. 

And I imagine that’s because you came into it as a dancer.

What? Della dances? ;) No idea what you are referring to, HAHA. 

You’ve just compiled a Traxsource LIVE! Mix too. Can you tell me a little about it?

Oo, I did! And I am SUPER stoked about it. Traxsource has been very supportive on my journey and in return I am a huge supporter of them. 

The mix is a reflection of me and the music I love. It is pure House music, booty bumpin, and an all around feel good mix. I recorded it in the basement of Jaeger, which was incredibly special, me alone with that sound system was magical. Also, the mix was recorded in the wake of my dear friend’s passing in New York. He was definitely with me when I was bouncing from track to track and it also features his final work. This mix is dedicated to him, RIP Andrew Hobold. 

It’s quite funky… 

I would hope so, haha. The last time I checked, it is called dance music. ;) 

And it’s very much a House mix, but House music today has so many different interpretations. What does House music mean for DELLA?

Unfortunately, the current industry has completely whitewashed House music and has demeaned the actual genre of what it truly is. It makes me quite upset honestly that kids now Google House music and white bro EDM has replaced Frankie Knuckles, Paul Johnson, Ron Hardy, Gene Farris, Kenny Dope, Honey Dijon, etc, as ‘House.’ Gurl, please. 

House music is so much more than a genre with a 4×4 beat. It is community, it is a form of dance, it is a sound that vibrates in time with the heart, it is the true meaning of love. It is a feeling of the soul that is not found on multi-million dollar mega-produced silly festivals. It is found in basements, warehouses, low lit shady bars, roller rinks, loft spaces, parks, you name it, wherever the dancer is found, the sound is found. True House music has an army of devoted bass soldiers and we all continue to push the boundaries of bringing this sound to the people. A sound that’s been going strong for 40 years and is nowhere in site of coming to an end. It is a sound that the establishment fears because it is the one place where everyone unites (gay, straight, black, white, young, old), revolts against the system, expresses themselves, and IS 100% FREE. THIS is House music. 

It’s a recorded mix for the sake of the internet, but you’ve always struck me as a DJ that feeds off the energy of the people. How do you channel that into a mix like this?

When I DJ, I play music to dance to. Whether it’s a pre-recorded mix or a 6 hour club set. I can guarantee you that I am shakin-it behind the turntables whenever I make a pre-recorded mix and this can be heard in the final result. 

Recorded mixes like this is part of the whole process of being a DJ today, alongside regularly  releasing music and constantly being proactive on social media. How do you think this affects the scene ultimately?

After 20+ years of involvement in this music, I don’t think any of this truly matters at the end of the day. If the DJ touches the hearts of the people, they’ll keep coming back. The fame and stardom dies as quickly as it rises. Instagram likes is just some silly facade trying to crown someone the king or queen of popularity. All crowns too fall to the ground someday. Genuine quality produced music will always remain once the ashes rise. Maybe I still have an old school mentality of: it doesn’t matter who it is behind the decks, as long as the floor is bouncing, than this is all that matters. 

At the end of the day though what matters is happening on the dance floor on the night! You know Jaeger’s audience fairly well. What’s the crucial ingredient to making that important aspect work in your opinion as a DJ?

My motto: I dance. They dance. We all dance together. And that’s the key ingredient. 

DJs that play simply to fill their own ego should step out of the booth. If the DJ cannot touch the hearts of the crowd, then they have failed. I’m a people DJ. This music is about community and unity, not about a string pretentious selections that only feed the ego of the selector. 

Speaking of which, what’s in store for the next DELLA’s Drivhus?

GENE FARRIS! The next Della’s Drivhus is Oct. 12 and I am hosting the House legend Gene Farris from Chicago. I have been trying to land this booking for over 1 year and it’s finally happening. So, get ready ‘cause we are going to ROCK the basement. 

And what else lies in the immediate future for DELLA?

Traxsource LIVE! Mix airs 28.08.19

‘Lose Yourself from Reality’ w/ DELLA, Mark Farina & Homero Espinosa releases 30.08.19

Opening party of Pride Trondheim on 07.09.19

B2B m/ Chrissy @ Oslo Camping 14.09.19

Della’s Drivhus w/ Gene Farris 12.10.19

Possible US tour later this year

Soon visiting my friends of the Gothenburg underground

Until we speak again…

The stranger the better: A Q&A with Carl Craig

Where do you start an interview with Carl Craig? At which point do you unpick that thread which will eventually unravel a legacy in electronic music that spans three decades and some critical bullet points in electronic music’s history.

It’s a Techno origin story with its roots in Detroit, counts Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins as some of the protagonists in a plot centered around one of the most significant eras for the genre. It’s there in the late eighties when Carl Craig first came to the fore as a producer and set forth on a career that spans a gummult of aliases, a host EPs, more than a handful of LPs and countless remixes, that even he has trouble recounting today.

Born and raised in Detroit in the middle of Techno’s origins, Carl Craig was mentored by none other than Derrick May as part of that crucial second wave of Techno artists, which also includes the likes of Kenny Larkin, Richie Hawtin and Robert Hood. It was this second generation that would go on to establish what the first generation created as the dominating force that it is today. 

Carl Craig has become a prominent figure in its legacy, with an eclectic approach that has seen him release some of the most significant pieces in Techno’s history. Under aliases which include 69, Paperclip People, Innerzone orchestra and C2 he has released records that are undeniable classics today.

He has been a promiscuous and prolific entity and continues to make severe impressions in his field, with an intuitive and inventive approach that has followed him across his extensive career and aliases.Carl Craig has always favoured a bold, experimental approach which has been distinguished by his unique take on the Techno. Broken beats, obscure alien sonic textures and nontraditional compositional forms have been a calling card that he’s brandished independently from any trend-informed developments within the genre. Carl Craig is simply a legend in his field today.

That legend is installed in the echelon of electronic music, but when I call up the man behind that legend, I find humble and down to earth person who is incredibly eloquent and who’s scope when engaged in conversation can span way beyond music.

He’s in Spain when I call  “trying to pack up all my shit that’s accumulated in Barcelona,”he says in a measured breath. His kids have been going to school in Barcelona for the last four seasons while Craig has split his time between Barcelona and Detroit. The kids have already moved back to the motor city, and he’s packing up the last of his possessions while seeing to some playing commitments on this side of the Atlantic. 

His next stop will be Oslo to perform his Versus show for Oslo Classics and then later that evening, he’ll play a set at Jaeger where he’s played every year for the last five years and it will be his second time playing in 2019. “I can’t be in Oslo and not play Jaeger,” he tells me. 

It’s the first time however that we get a chance to speak in the context of an interview, and with burning questions going back from the first time he played here, we have a lot of ground to cover and very little time. So, where exactly do you start an interview with Carl Craig?

I wanted to start off by asking you about Detroit, especially Detroit today. It’s always had this fractured relationship with Techno in that it’s always been more popular outside of the city. Have you seen that change at all in recent years?

Well Detroit is a city where people are influenced by what’s popular like in any place. But the thing about Detroit as a city is that it’s not a major city for the country. For instance in Norway you have Oslo that’s going to have all the influence on the rest of Norway.

Detroit is one of many big cities in the United States, but people are influenced by what becomes big, and what becomes big in the US has more to do with what’s promoted by major companies, who have the money to get behind the promotion of music. 

In the old days, it went by regions. You could have a big record in a region but it won’t be big across the United States. And the same with electronic music. it can be regional, so Detroit has a movement that’s very strong for electronic music; Chicago has had their House music scene; Miami has their House music scene. You have all these aspects that are influential in each city, but when the Chemical Brothers come out with a new record, that’s when there’s a big major push because they’ve got a big label behind them, so that’s when everybody pays attention. 

Or something happens in Las Vegas, like right now Techno has taken over from EDM, and now Techno is the new fad again in the US (laughs). And that will influence people in our region. People will see Adam Beyer or Carl Cox at EDC, and then they’ll be all about this Techno thing. 

But only a few of the people will actually do research, and then people will start tweeting or instagramming that “you know there’s a Techno movement in your own town, what do you know about that?” Then people start paying attention, because there’s a kind of pressure from others that are outside of the US.  

Do you find that this kind of newfound interest like that of Las Vegas, directs new audiences to your music, or do people still have to dig that little deeper to get to Carl Craig?

They have to dig deeper, definitely. I’ve never been somebody who tried to be predictable about what I do. That means I’m happy with what I do, but is probably also seen as the more real aspect of electronic music. 

There’s a famous quote of yours that goes in Detroit we have cars and music, and I’ve always been curious about the relationship between the music and industry in the city. Was there some sort of impact or was it just habistance that this machine music came out of the motor town?

Well, with Berry Gordy, his whole idea of running Motown like an assembly line came from working on an assembly line in the factory. Juan Atkins, his influence came from the assembly line as well, but it was the assembly line once it was automated and partially run by robots. That definitely had an influence on his music, and his followers like me. 

But none of you ever worked in those factories?

No, I don’t think Kevin (Saundersen), Derrick (May) or Juan ever worked in the factory. I know Derrick can definitely remember quotes from Star Trek, so there was this whole Sci Fi thing that came a bit before my time, and I believe that’s had a big impact on Detroit Techno. It was about equipment that had a bunch of lights on it that looked really interesting and did cool things, like travelling in space. Those are the influences that are still prevalent in Techno music. 

Detroit was declared bankrupt in 2013, and when you started out, it would have just been after the 1980’s recession. Do you think that socio-economic landscape had any effect on the music or culture in that it was a bit more raw or soulful as a result of that?  

Detroit, the whole time I remember growing up, until just a few years ago, has always been in a recession, or trying to recover from a recession. When you go to the center of the city, there’s development, but it has been slow. When you go into the neighbourhoods there are always burnt down houses, buildings boarded up and houses that have been torn down. 

There was always this decline that even when we had a great mayor, like mayor Archer, you still couldn’t get past that decline. We started having devil’s night fires, all these people taking copper off of buildings, and roofs off of buildings. Detroit’s recession became an opportunity for people to make money in really fucked up ways. It’s only over the last four years that we’re seeing Detroit, not only on an economic rise, but also a rise in the development. 

How do you think it’s affected the music scene there, especially in light of the revitalisation project that’s been going on there for the last four years?

The guys do what they do. Omar S, Theo Parrish, Kenny Dixon, Mike Banks, Jay Daniel and Kyle Hall, they’re doing what’s ingrained in them, channeling their experiences from how they grew up in Detroit and and channeling that into their music. 

I think that once we start really seeing a change from that, it’s going to be another generation of people making music; transplants that are moving to Detroit from outside of Detroit. Young teenagers that are going to experience Detroit in a whole different way that I experienced Detroit growing up. I hope that as the landscape is changing it will help generate a new perspective in how Detroit music can be made and appreciated in Detroit. 

Was there ever anything that you felt that could be described as a scene in Detroit or was it like you said: guys just doing what they’re going to do?

I think any scene has to do with what happens in the club world and the party world, especially with music for clubs. You need to have clubs to hear the music. We had the music institute. That was a major deal. It was George Baker, Alton Miller and  Chez Damier that started Music Institute that revved my engines a lot to make music. 

Before, I was going to the Shelter where they played like “Ballroom Blitz” and “This charming man,” but from 12:00 – 02:00 they played black music. They’re playing Mr. Fingers and all this Chicago stuff as well as what Derrick and Juan were doing. But that was 2 hours out of a 5 hour night, so when the Music Institute happened and it was 6 – 8 hours of just straight Techno music with Derrick and Kevin and Juan playing on Friday and then Alton Miller and Chez Daimier on Saturdays doing more Disco stuff. 

That made a really big impact for me and Detroit needs that all the time, but unfortunately that  was the biggest club impact since it closed in 1995. And now its Movement (festival) which is great, but it only happens once a year. It’s not a consistent thing on a weekly basis.

When you started making music, you stepped straight into the production role, and I believe you never DJ’d before you started making music. But you do mention that you were going to clubs at least. Do you think that approach has had an effect how you write and compose music?

Yeah, definitely. Every influence I have has had some impact on what I do. When you are playing festivals all the time, you start making and playing music for festivals. When you are playing in clubs all the time, you’re making and playing music that’s for clubs. 

So when I started making music, that came from playing guitar and I bought a synthesiser and begged and borrowed from everything else that I had. I made everything from what I learnt between transposing things from guitar and putting it to synths. Whereas Derrick and some of the other guys didn’t come into it playing any instruments, they came into it this with just great ideas and a way to programme this stuff, and they were DJing. 

When I came into it, I came into it with the musical training, but not specifically on the instrument I play now. 

That’s the way I perceive your music; rather than approaching it as a DJ, you seem to approach it as a composer. Do you think it would’ve sounded different if you started DJing before starting to make music?

I think it would’ve been that way. I know DJs who just don’t have the attention span to make music. Some guys from Detroit I would really like to see out here, more. They are excellent DJs, but just don’t get the opportunity because they don’t have the patience to sit around and programme music. 

They end up getting stuck in Detroit and want to come and share their music, but can’t because nobody knows you in the fuck they are. Delano Smith was one of those guys. Delano was Djing before Derrick and Derrick was looking up to Delano Smith, and it took Delano twenty odd years, before he actually released some music. Now, you see Delano in Panorama Bar and all over Europe, and if he didn’t make those records he wouldn’t have had that opportunity. 

Was that the same for the rest of that second generation, with people like Kenny Larkin and Robert Hood starting out as producers rather than DJs?

Well Richie was a DJ before he started making records. With Kenny Larkin, he had made his record on Plus 8 and that’s how he became a DJ. Robert Hood, I don’t know if he was DJing out, but he probably had turntables and was really good at DJing. I think Robert came into the Underground Resistance fold through Jeff, and Jeff was a DJ long before he started making music; he was a famous DJ in Detroit for about ten years before he started making the Final Cut. 

 

The reason I asked is because you have the Techno scene that started with Derrick, Juan and Kevin and then you guys stepped in and the music seemed to change. It brought in a lot more eclecticism and it became really well produced. Did you feel you had to adapt what the generation before you were doing as producers and that’s why you approached more as producers than DJs?

When I got into the fold, Derrick never told me I had to make music that sounded like them. Especially at that time, and I think Strictly Rhythm was the first label that is seen like they were really saying: “you have to make music that sounds like this in order for it to be released.” Traxx were around, and people were just making these songs and they would go to Larry Sherman and he would cut them a cheque for $500 and say get the fuck out. 

With Derrick, Kevin and Juan… I know for a fact that Derrick was really upset for a long time that people were aping his style. You had a whole crew of people in England and London, that were just making records that sounded like Derrick. He couldn’t stand that. 

I came into it, where my individuality was cultivated within a relationship. It wasn’t like I had to make a record that sounded like “Good Life” to get over. They wanted to hear something that was hot, and they didn’t care whether it was eclectic or not, probably the stranger the better, especially for Derrick. 

Would you say that defines your music, something that’s strange?

Yeah. I mean Marc Kinchen (MK) and I started out right around the same time. Marc had a record that was out on express records when he was about 15 or 16, and was taken under Kevin’s wing and I came under Derrick’s wing and you could basically hear the differences between our influences, by who we were mentored by. 

With MK you can see he honed his style which is more commercially viable with more pop, and that’s because he was around when inner city were doing all their stuff. I was around too, but I was next door at Derrick’s and we had synthesisers and drum machines on the floor and we were just trying to make the craziest stuff we could. 

That’s how my career has gone with the work that I’ve done. I was mentored to be fearless what I did musically and Marc is fearless, but he was mentored in way that hone his abilities as a pop producer. 

That’s probably why your music is held in such high regard in our community today, and has made such an indelible impact on electronic music. What is your relationship with those tracks like today, especially tracks like Innerzone Orchestra’s Bug in a Bassbin and 69’s Desire?

I love them all. It’s not only a part of me, but I can remember what I was doing at the time. I wasn’t making any of this to feed a musical system. So when I made “Bug in Bassbin,” I remember where I was when I made “Bug in a Bassbin”. I remember where I was when I made Tres Demented, I remember that I was mad when I made that. 

I see them as bullet points in my life, not just in my career. You know when you have a map and you take a pen and then you stick it there, that’s what I think of when I think of the music I’ve made. 

Sometimes I forget some of it. Zip was playing a track and I ran up to him, and was like; “man this is funky, who is this?” He looked at me like I was out of my mind and said; “this is you!”(laughs).

How have you maintained that level of creativity throughout your career and was there ever a point where you went I’m not going to be able to make any new music?

I mean… I push it. Sometimes when you push things creatively, it works against you. I just kept active, I just kept taking my ideas and spinning them to remixes and then to tracks. If something didn’t work out as a remix then I would spin it into a track. If something as too good for a remix, then I would spin it into a track for myself. If I was a painter and I had canvas and paint all the time, then I would keep making paintings. 

Does this mean you’re constantly working on music to release it, or does a lot of it end up on the cutting room floor?

Much of what I did I had as outtakes. But I look at it as experiments, so when I couldn’t make five tracks in a day, it’s possible that one track would be ok, more than possible five tracks would be shit. So I would take from what I did as experiments and the next day I would be moving on from what I did the day before. 

It’s more difficult for me to make music based on the idea that I’m going to release something. For instance Moritz von Oswald and I have been working on an album together for the last 5 years. You just keep working and keep working and don’t even think of it as being releasable, but just as getting something in a way that we can exorcise our demons. 

Is that also relative to why you have so many aliases, so you can compartmentalise all these different aspects of your creativity?

Yes, definitely. I came up with those aliases after I make the tracks. That’s why you see some stuff only come out as one thing. Like Innerzone Orchestra, there’s only ever been one Innerzone Orchestra record. There’s only some releases that have more than one release, like 69 and Paperclip People. 

That makes it difficult to do a 69 album (for instance). I’m not going to be able to do a 69 album. I’ve already tried that, and it’s not happening, because the influence doesn’t come from me making 69 tracks; the influence comes from me watching tv, acting silly and doing stupid stuff and then something great comes out. If I work on thirty tracks in ten days, there could be five tracks that actually work and those tracks might feel like 69, or Innerzone Orchestra.

I want to ask you about your last album Versus, because it ties into why you’re coming to Oslo. That album was very different from anything else you’ve done in the past, because it was very orchestrated and very bold. Is that the future of Carl Craig and where you want to go with your sound?

Growing up in the seventies, there were a few ways of hearing music: One was radio, another one was TV on Saturday and the other one was in an elevator. So whenever I went into a big building with my parents there would be muzak (elevator music) playing. It was always this orchestrated versions of pop songs. 

As a kid when I would hear an orchestrated version of a Dionne Warwick song, and I’d know the original, my logic for them to get an orchestra together to do a version of the song, would mean that the song was important. That is how I was indoctrinated in elevator music to be interested in orchestral music. Not only that, but I did play concert bass when I was in high school. 

That’s very interesting because obviously Brian Eno was very influenced by Muzak as well, but he went completely the opposite way as in it was music that could also be completely ignored, where as you specifically focussed on the aspect of it that is bold and has to be heard.

When I started doing these orchestral shows I worked with Franceso Tristano on all the stuff and this is a person who is not a very imposing person, but when he plays you have to listen. 

So that has had an influence on me as well, especially coming in and doing these orchestral scores and performances, because I’ll walk in and I’ll know all the players are going to be masters of their instruments, whereas I’m not, but I’m the composer. I have to trust the ability of these players. 

Part of getting their attention when Francesco did those scores, was to make the scores interesting and strong for those players who want to play it. It had to be something that grabbed their attention and that’s part of something that can be heard in the Versus record. It had to be interesting on a player’s level and whatever I had added after the fact with electronics, made it come together maybe in a bit more of a cohesive way. 

Your doing the show for Oslo classics.

I love coming to Oslo anyway. Any opportunity that we have to do Versus, I’m totally up for doing it, because every performance I learn something else. Whatever I learned from this I’ll be able to take into my future productions. 

You’ll be playing Jaeger after the show. How do you plan on bridging that gap from the live performance onto the dance floor?

Jaeger feels great, I always have a lot of fun when I’m there. 

Do you feel you have to adapt your sets at all when playing this side of the atlantic?

No I do what I do. If I feel a vibe that’s different, I might try to adapt to that vibe, but people come to see Carl Craig, so I try to give them what Carl Craig is into at the time. 

How has your relationship between DJing and production changed over time, do you feel more drawn to the composition side of things or are you leaning more towards DJing of late?

DJing is my day job (laughs). That’s what I learnt a long time ago; You gotta get out on the road, because that’s how people get to know about your music and that’s your job, to promote the music. There’s not going to be two performances every week when I do the orchestra, DJing is what does it. 

 

Five seminal Paul Johnson tracks by Daniel Gude

“Down, down down, d-down … D-d-down, do-do-do-down… Down, down, down, down.” You’ve heard, and very likely mumbled along to those lyrics before. For a while Paul Johnson’s “Get Get Down” was a House anthem and for a generation dreaming of Ibiza through the portal of  MTV it became synonymous with their informative experiences with House music and the4r dance floor. You couldn’t escape the infectious funky bassline and the incessant (bordering on exasperating) vocal that became the unavoidable earworm imbedded in the conscious of everybody that’s been on a dance floor in the last twenty years.

Although “Get Get Down” had established and enshrined the legacy of Paul Johnson for a whole generation of House aficionados, that song is the mere tip of an iceberg that extends deep into the roots of House music in Chicago where he remains a steadfast presence anchored to the underground ideologies that first established the genre in the late nineteen eighties. 

Around the start of House music, Paul Johnson would arrive on the scene as a breakdancer and later a DJ, mixing two turntables, cassettes and a four track player. “Paul was one of the first to sample R&B songs that were out there over his own beats,” Gant Garrard (aka Gantman) told Chicago’s 5 Mag in an interview from 2006. That’s how Paul invented what would become Ghetto House, a sound that would evolve into Ghetto Tech and eventually even Footwork, disseminating Paul’s modest influence all over House music in the USA for at least two generations. 

Over the course of hundreds of records, most of which he’d forgotten about over the years, Paul Johnson has made an impact and established a legacy that lives way beyond the stuttering lyricism of his biggest track “Get get down,” without taking away anything from the might of that track. It might have been the track that was responsible for sending Paul Johonson’s career on a very different trajectory towards a more mainstream audience, but it’s the records he’s released before and after that have installed him in the House music lexicon as one of the genre’s more unique entities. 

Paul Johnson has made many contributions in Daniel Gude’s extensive record collection. As a producer and DJ Paul Johnson’s humble legacy and significant contributions to House music is exactly the kind of spirit that Daniel Gude wants to perpetuate through his Retro concept. With the Chicago legend’s imminent arrival we asked Daniel Gude to pick a few Paul Johnson favourites out of the extensive wall of records that line his impressive record collection. 

*Paul Johnson plays Retro this Thursday

 

Paul Johnson – Feel My M.F. Bass

Dance Mania, 1994

Daniel Gude: “C’mon now! Ghetto Tech at it’s best IMO”

 

Paul Johnson’s 1994 sub quencher still stands as a unique testament to the House genre. The bold ghetto lyricism and thunderous kick leave no room for negotiation as it forces you into the middle of the floor in that indeterminable sweet spot, where the low frequencies physical effect as its strongest. This is body music at its best and the first record on Dance Mania that established a relationship between the artist and the label that still lasts today.  

 

Paul Johnson – So Much

Dust Traxx – 1998

Daniel Gude: “I think this is a favourite of mine because it’s a cool picture disc 12” that I’ve had in my bag for 20 years now. Both the song and the record is sexy”

This record is a seductress. It tosses between the funky grooves, the charming chirping keys and the sultry vocals luring the listener between the sheets. There’s an infectious groove to this track focussing on that live bass line bouncing between the beats and the keys, adding to the sensual air Mr. Johnson perpetuates on the track.

 

Paul Johnson – Play with My Bassline

Dopewax – 2017

Daniel Gude: “I like Paul’s diversity and longevity. This cool acid track from 2017 is a great example of that”

Paul Johnson has never taken so much as a break from making and releasing music all these years. He seems as prolific today as he was in the beginning, and has retained a unique quality to his music. Bringing a more than insinuating vocal into the mix, Johnson often juxtaposes the serious production of his music with a playful hook, making for a more approachable House track each time. He’s very rarely pandered to trends or styles and thus a track like this from two years ago sits effortlessly alongside his earliest records giving his whole discography a timeless quality.

 

Paul Johnson – After Dark

ACV – 1996

Daniel Gude: “Just drums. But raw and funky just the way Paul does it” 

Taken from Paul’s pragmatically titled sophomore LP, “After Dark” is a DJ tool at its best. It really shows the versatility of the artist who is able to coax all of this from nothing more than a drum machine. The polyrhythmic display is a testament to the legacy of House music with its roots firmly planted in the rich musical styles that came before it like Funk and Soul. Paul Johnson adds a human flair to this machine music, as if Gregory C. Coleman is sitting at the kit. Even though it’s most likely sequenced through a machine, there’s very little that’s mechanical about this. It’s an incredibly organic and very beguiling track. 

 

Paul Johnson – Get Get Down

Moody Recordings – 1999

Daniel Gude: “It’s a favourite because it ALWAYS gets the club go crazy. Any club, any crowd. And I don’t find it cheesy although it appeals to everyone”

Everything comes back to “Get Get Down.” It’s popular for a reason and even at the height of its popularity people couldn’t get enough of it. More than that, it’s an archetypal Paul Johnson track. No other producer sounds like Paul Johnson; those funky basslines, the energetic percussion and the existential vocal snippets, all add a distinctive flair that might have been co-opted by genres as far afield as footwork, but retains a unique quality that can only be a Paul Johnson track.  

A perpetual voyage of sonic discovery with Mungolian Jet Set

Travelling through the absolute recesses of the musical cosmos, the Norwegian music duo, Mungolian Jet Set have charted a course through a wormhole of contemporary music. Pål “Strangefruit” Nyhus and Knut Sævik are a pair of intrepid intergalactic explorers of sound, whose combined musical heritage has made them one of the most unique musical entities operating in the vast sphere of electronic music today.  

Ever since a serendipitous meeting in 2002, Pål and Knut have been making music as Mungolian Jet Set with a distinctive flair for the exotic, the psychedelic and dub in their music. Over three LPs, a handful of EPs and on the few occasions that they’ve acquiesced to a remix, Mungolian Jet Set’s music flits between Cosmic Disco, Krautrock, and Prog Rock existing like a musical black hole between these genres, slowly consuming them in the musical unknown beyond the event horizon that is Mungolian Jet Set. 

*Mungolian Jet Set play Jaeger for the Boiler Room Weekender

 

Before Mungolian Jet Set Pål and Knut were two established fixtures on Norway’s music scene, arriving in the same scene in Oslo from two different points. Pål originally from Hamar, just a horse and cart ride away into rural Norway north of Oslo, came to music through DJing, and lists Prins Thomas as one of his protegés. A key touchstone for almost every music- or record enthusiast in Norway, Pål had become a prominent selector in Oslo and by the early 2000’s he had a regular show on national radio station P3, where he would meet Knut.  

Knut, a multi-instrumentalist and producer from Ørsto on the west coast of Norway had made his first impressions in the world of Hip Hop as one third of Side Brok with Skatebård, and had already staked his claim as a producer working with avant garde acts like Gork. Knut was appearing on Pål’s Strangefruit radio show with his latest musical incarnation, the downtempo exotica of John Storm N Da Kid, “which triggered some of the same ideas I had for music,” remembers Pål in an interview with this blog.

“There was something that I liked which had these enormous dimensions to it in the way it was layered.” The pair had initially got to know each other through Oslo’s clubbing community, but arriving at the scene from “opposing branches” they were usually “battling and competing against each other” for the same small stake. “Then we decided to become one,” Pål told Magnetic Mag, “join together and make something better. Now we just pretend that we’re friends.”  

Joking aside, it was exactly Pål and Knut’s clashing of musical tastes that informed the bedrock of Mungolian Jet Set’s sound. Where their musical dialect converged, or probably more likely veered from the other, they created a vortex of sound, that simply consumed everything in its path in heady arrangements that took on lysergic shapes on the dance floor and beyond it. 

“What I like about Knut is that he’s totally open minded,” Pål told us. “His background is kind of a weird mixture. He’s heavily into Russian Classical music, but at the same time he has kind of an open ear for pop music.” It’s Knut’s open ear that does much of the  musical direction of the group where he’s “always building a big sound,” according to a Resident Advisor interview. “Personally I’m very interested in orchestral and large ensemble music,” says Knut, but the big arrangements and grandiose compositions in the music of Mungolian Jet Set is just one small part in the final execution that ties it all together. 

At the heart of their appeal lies a diversity and dynamism that stems from their eclectic background. Before Mungolian Jet Set, Pål had made an indefinable mark as a DJ in Oslo, and with a radio show and gigs all around Norway, Europe and even Asia, all that could be accomplished in that realm had been, and he began exploring new challenges from a pair of turntables. He started DJing in the context of a Jazz band, playing records alongside live musicians like Bugge Wesseltoft,  opening Pål “up to another way of thinking about the way you can use turntables in a band context.” What he realised then he told RA is “very important to the way we approach sound in what we’re doing with the Mungolian Jet Set.”

Dubby progressions swirl and eddy around laconic rhythm sections, drifting off untethered into parallel dimensions. Textures floating through an ether of extemporised expression, create exotic atmospheres, informed by esoteric sounds sampled and co-opted from Pål and Knut’s extensive musical library. 

“We usually move around in the genres of fantasy, munglore or discopop with a slab of mungishness” Knut said in a jocular effort to define his music to a journalist at earmilk. Pål is a bit more pragmatic about the approach however:  “I have always been fond of the club sound that was quite apparent in the ‘90s,” explained Pål in a Factmag article as he attempted  to whittle down the sonic influences of the band. “Labels and artists like Garth, Grayhound, Dubtribe, the Wicked parties and the Californian underground vibe were hugely influential to me as a DJ. I like the way it fused the psychedelic hippy vibe with the dub-enhanced disco sound. Some of the Bergen stuff that came out in the same era, especially early Røyksopp and the works of Erot and Bjørn Torske, were kind of similar but a tad more ‘innocent’ and ‘inexperienced’. Maybe it reflects in our pieces as well.”

The fact is that there is no way in defining their sound other than a fusion of ideas on their perpetual journey of sonic discovery through an intergalactic music multiverse. While their first LP, “Beauty Came to Us in Stone” was lingering on the fringes of Jazz, their 2011 masterpiece, “Schlungs“ sounded more like the cosmic sounds of Norwegian Disco passing through the darkened void of Neu!’s cement mixer. 

“Some people don’t get our music the first time around,” Pål told Magnetic Mag. With so many different elements informing their work, there’s much to decipher in the music of Mungolian Jet Set, and for an audience that perhaps is more attuned to definitive categorisation, every new bar, phrase or track is a new challenge to unravel. “Take someone who’s really into something, say techno or electro,” says Pål. “If you put a third kind of track in between those two kinds of tracks, somebody’s going to say that doesn’t make sense. People need to label things. We are against that kind of thinking.”

“We try to do something different for each track,” adds Knut, but “it’s not always an easy process,” when you trying to force all these diverse influences and cues into each track. This is the source from which Mungolian Jet Set’s psychedelic sound arrives, piecing together elements that naturally clash into some abstract 3-D assemblage that refuses to maintain any familiar form. Songs like “The Ghost of Cauldron M / I Cannot live in Sin” or It Ain’t Necessarily evil” seems to be expounding on the next idea before the current idea is fully formed. 

“In a sense we’re very much maximalists instead of minimalists” explains Pål in RA. “It doesn’t mean that every track has to be full on, but our music has a story telling quality to it.” There’s a sense of theatre to the Mungolian Jet Set sound, something Pål suggests is Monty Python-esque and might have some ground in Pål’s approach to the music who Knut says is “always thinking characters—like if a band played this, what would they look like and what would their names be.“

Imagery like this is something that has been with Pål ever since he started DJing and it’s a story he often recounts in interviews. Hearing the sounds of the Paradise Garage in New York in rural Norway for the first time, Pål compared it to a spaceship landing in the middle of farmland, but with no possible way of knowing what a city like New York sounded like, Pål has always relied on his imagination when it comes to music. “I think a lot of Norwegian dance songs originally were kinds of musical fantasies about New York, Africa or whatever,” Pål told Factmag. Taking these imaginary sojourns across the globe accentuates that sense of theatre in the Mungolian Jet Set sound, with Pål and Knut ensuring that these references are boldly orchestrated in their music.

“Everything is prominent in our music,” explained Pål in earmilk. They emphasise these exotic hues through instrumentation, but also samples, with Knut usually at the helm of the arrangement and the final composition of each track. They try and play as much as possible between them, but also rely heavily on sampled sounds, but “the sampled sounds are more a part of an orchestration process which comes in later” according to Knut.

“The way we work together, when it comes to the typical sound, everything is done by Knut,” elucidated Pål in  RA. “He knows the studio in and out. My input is maybe more the free thinking. I think like a DJ.” Knut will be at hand on the Mungolian Jet Set sound “from the arranging and composing side” and will let Pål improvise freely until he hears something specific to which he’ll tell Pål; “that’s it—stop.” 

Between Pål’s free spirited composition and Knut’s controlled arrangements, they’ve found  a sound that can migrate across musical borders, often for whole LPs, but retain the elusive, schizophrenic charm of the Mungolian Jet Set sound, a sound that lives beyond time and space. It’s a sound that’s in infinite motion on that perpetual voyage of sonic discovery. 

They’re only regret according to Knut is that “sometimes I think we don’t experiment enough.” A bold claim from one of the last few avant garde artists working in popular music. They haven’t made any new music since 2016’s “A City so Convenient,” which saw them travel to new destinations through their music yet again. There are whispers that they’re back in the studio circulating in Oslo DJ rumor mill, so a new EP or even an LP might be on the cards in the not too distant future.. 

There’s nobody that could ever sound like Mungolian Jet Set, they are a force onto their own and their music has a tendency to challenge any musical trends, and lets hope Pål’s words ring true when he told Magnetic Mag: “Our aim musically is to stay around for a while. We hope to be doing this when we’re in our 70s. I mean… The Rolling Stones are still playing.”

Arctic Funk with Fjordfunk

A woeful slide guitar and an elastic bass synthesiser find some harmonious connection across the firmament of sparkling hi-hats as windswept pads streak across an arrangement like the aurora borealis. A fusion of guitars, harmonica, drum machines and synthesisers, encased in magnificent layers of frosty textures entice, intrigue and charm their way through a progression. It’s only the opening bars of “Da Strarga Tora” the first track of Fjordfunk’s debut LP and any resistance to the rest of the record is in vain as you’re swept into its sonic embrace. 

This is what Funk sounds like beyond the arctic circle, through the ears of a DJ and producer that climbed the ranks of Norwegian Disco in the 1990’s and soundtracked the sounds on northern Norway throughout the early 2000’s. After an 11-year hiatus Jann Dahle returns to the recorded format to finally make his debut on the longer player format as Fjordfunk. 

Dahle picks up from where he left the Fjordfunk alias with “Infinite Zest,” an LP that condenses a vast musical universe, from Dub to Disco, Rock to Jazz, to an indistinguishable thread that defies categorisation. “I just wanted an album that I could play at home and also in the car,” explains Dahle over a telephone call from Harstad where he’s lived for the last six years. He returned home to Harstad after living in Berlin for eight years during a time he “played all the clubs in Berlin” and “got to know Berlin as a city, not just a tourist,” before turning gravely ill and taking a permanent break from music. 

“I got very sick and I had to dedicate my life to that,” explains Dahle in a tone that shows no signs of regret. He had spent two years on dialysis waiting for a new kidney, and had fractured his back in six places, rendering no time to make or play music. It took him years to recuperate and although DJing is still inconceivable with six spinal fractures, he has returned to music with with the release of this LP and more releases pegged for the very near future. 

Jann Dahle started making music in 1992  in Tromsø when he moved there to study law. It was a fortuitous time to be making music in Tromsø as the critical point for a burgeoning Disco and House scene that would eventually spread around the globe. “I met Rune (Linbæk), Bjørn (Torske) and Kolbjørn (Lyslo aka Doc L Junior) and I started professionally DJing back then,” remembers Dahle. “There was a lot of buzz about Norwegian Disco at that moment, because of Bjørn,” but Tromsø being a small city, Dahle “got to know everybody” involved in music and landed a job at Brygge Radio alongside Bjørn, Rune, and Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere).

Dahle had already found an affinity for American House as a DJ and after a while –  and possibly encouraged by his peers – he bought an sp1200 sampler and started making his own music. “I heard that track Luv Dancing by Underground Solution on Strictly Rhythm and then I just wanted to make electronic music,” recalls Dahle. 

He adopted the name Kango’s Stein Massiv and started making music. At the same time he was playing “small House parties” around Tromsø in places that could barely fit 30 people, but squeezed in 70, people coming in through the windows, just to hear DJs like Dahle, DJ Dust and Rune play. 

By the early 2000’s however everything that could be accomplished in the small university toe of Tromsø was and an exodus followed with the likes of Bjørn Torske moving to Bergen, Rune Lindbæk to Oslo and Dahle to Berlin. 

In 2005 Berlin was a completely different landscape. “My first gig in Berlin was at Panorama Bar” says Dahle and it would’ve been mere months after the venue had opened. He had met Andy Baumecker when the German DJ played in Norway, and the pair just “hit it off”. Dahle would become a regular at Panorama bar at a time when “not too many tourist clubbers” were aware of the emerging institution, playing some part in propelling Dahle’s career in the German capital, to that point where he had nearly played every club in the city by 2008.

Kango’s Stein Massiv would continue to release records during this time. And his records would always  share some relationship to the proto-house sounds of the early eighties in Chicago. “At the heart of it, it was always Disco,” says Dahle “because we sampled Disco.” He released a lot of music, edits and remixes under various aliases, including his first and only record as Jackmaster Dahle, a name that was given to him by Prins Thomas for a one-off release on the precursor to Full Pupp, Tamburine.

“I’ve had a lot of aliases,” says Dahle in a kind of musing tone and it stems from Dahle’s fleeting relationship with a myriad of musical genres. “I get easily bored when I do the same music – I don’t want to do the same thing all the time.”

That’s how Fjordfunk came into existence. “At that time I just wanted to break away from the Kango’s Stein Massiv,” says Dahle. He, Pål “Strangefruit” Nyhus and Øyvind Morken started a label called Luna Flicks with the first Fjordfunk 12”. He took the name Fjordfunk from a local northern Norway legends, Zoo. “They had a track called Slogfunk,” referring to fish offal, which Dahle beautified into Fjordfunk. 

Fjordfunk was always intended to be an album project however, but after releasing two EPs on Luna Flicks that never transpired, before Dahle’s health deteriorated. “I made one album under that name that I threw out,” says Dahle and today the only surviving copy of that work is with Tore “Jazztobakk”  Gjedrem (Ost & Kjex / Sex Judas). 

Is this next Fjordfunk LP at risk of the same fate I wonder? “No,” chuckles Dahle, “it’s being pressed as we speak.” 

Infinite Zest will be released very shortly on New York’s ALO records and it finds Fjordfunk back on the recorded format for the first time since 2008 with “BABOOBAP,” the lead single from the upcoming LP. “I’ve been making music all this time,” says Dahle, but he never completed anything while he was still recovering. He did however keep sending some “ideas” to ALO boss and friend Ben Green, who provided the impetus or the LP when he said: “stop sending me all these ideas, just make an album already.” 

With his health improving he took up the challenge and “decided that by the end of June I will just master an album.” He put together 23 tracks which he and Green whittled down to 8 and the result is Infinite Zest. 

Infinite Zest is a sonic diorama composed from a rich palette of  musical hues informed by Dahle’s own tastes. In a track like “BABOOBAP” you might hear the influence of Harstad icons Zoo, while a track like “Exile” echoes the synthetic conjurings of Jean Michel Jarre as he was in the eighties. There’s a mysterious charm in the atmosphere Dahle coaxes between synthesisers and organic instruments, punctuated by beguiling Disco grooves in an LP that sounds like the cast of Stranger Things on a night out at Studio 54. 

It’s an LP that works on various levels as something that can be appreciated as a self-contained listening experience at home, or when called upon, can slip into a DJ set.  Dahle references Steve Reich’s “Music for Eighteen Musicians” especially for the inspiration of his work, not considering the sound, but in terms of the ultimate listening experience. “It’s the only album I can listen to in the car or at home” inisists Dahle who refers to Reich’s seminal works  as “the pinnacle of music.” The “meditative” quality of Reich’s music is something that particularly resonates with Dahle and it’s something that he manages to recapture in the Fjordfunk sound. It’s always there, lingering contemplatively in the background and especially prominent in the dubby arrangements of “Borealis” or the progresisve extemporisation of “Prelude.” 

“Infinite Zest” is an immersive piece of work, with a dynamic artistic intent. It was created in less than a year with a group of musicians Dahle often calls on in his work. He uses “musicians from everywhere” and at the core of each track is a sixteen bar loop. He sends it to his extended band with little more than a bassline and a few chords and the unspoken request for the ”usual,” which in the case of his guitarist in Finland, means “riffs, licks and a solo.”

He cuts these into pieces and assembles them like a collage from which they take on their own life as tracks. He never considers the end result before approaching a track, making tracks like BABOOBAP “kind of trippy because you don’t really know where the track is going.” It borders on psychedelic, but with the grooves of the rhythm section keeping it from veering off into the obscure, “Infinite Zest” remains grounded in the earthly realm. 

It’s the LP that Fjordfunk was always destined to create and now that it’s finally here, you’d think Jann Dahle would take the time to savour the fruits of his labour. “O, No” he says, laughing  “I’m so bored with that one already.” He’s made “hundreds of tracks” since and claims he has “enough material” to start work on his next two LPs. “You know you’re always most passionate about the latest one,” and for Dahle that’s looking way beyond the present. 

Besides two more LPs, Dahle is also working on some “new stuff” with Tore Gjedrem “that could really work in a club” and collaborating with DFA affiliate Amy Douglas. He’s still not DJing, due to the ongoing issues with his back, but has created a live show around the new LP and one or two new pieces that he will debut in Oslo this weekend for the Boiler Room x Nightflight weekender. 

It’s all part of a new empirical phase for the artist formerly known as Kango’s Stein Massiv, who is redefining funk with an all-encompassing flair of a Norwegian selector as Fjordfunk today. In the 11 years Dahle has been away from music, he’s only gone on to refine the Fjordfunk sound and “Infinite Zest”  sees Dahle confer his music in this new era, an era which will see much more from the Norwegian veteran and stalwart, than ever before. 

 

Getting back to the roots of House music with Cinthie

For the last 7 years Cinthie has become a dominating force in DJ booths all around the world. She’s an integral part of  Beste Modus, which today consists of a DJ collective, 7 sub labels and a record store called elevate.berlin. She is an in-demand DJ with bookings every week, circumnavigating the globe in a year, from America to Australia. She is constantly making new music and in 2019 alone she’s already released five EP’s to critical acclaim via AUS and the Beste Modus labels, including the newly founded 803 Crystal Grooves. 

Since 2012, she’s been going from strength to strength as a DJ, a label-boss and producer, but her start in music goes way back to the late nineties, when she was still a teenager, and went by the pseudonym, vinyl princess. 

With a name like Cinthie (her real name), she was always destined for a career in electronic music. Brought up in a musical home,  the love for vinyl was instilled in a young Cinthie early on. The record store was her second home and as soon as she was old enough her first job would be working behind the counter. Colleagues noticing her love for music and a burgeoning vinyl collection, set her up with her first DJ residency at Flash just outside of Frankfurt which she had to abandon when the club owner found out she was still under age. 

She took a three month sabbatical before returning, and had quickly established a name for herself beyond in the murky musical period at the end of the 90’s where she played a selection of breaks and electro at parties for the likes of West Bam.

Photo by Marie Staggat

She released a few records during this period, but focused most of her efforts on DJing and had found a unique synergy with Germany’s underground scene coinciding with a move to Berlin where she would host parties before eventually becoming a resident at Watergate. She remained an elusive fixture on the scene however, cultivating a sincere following away from the mainstream.

Around 2012 a life-affirming moment followed after the untimely passing of her mother and divorce from the father of her child, which saw her dedicate all her time to music, quitting her day job, and devoting all her time to the artform,  She met Diego Krause, Stevn.aint.leavn, Ed Herbst and Albert Vogt shortly after and they formed Beste Modus, who quickly took Berlin by storm for their love of their physical format and the records they started putting out on their label of the same name.

Since that serendipitous meeting, Cinthie has been an unstoppable force in the booth and in the studio. A versatile selector that can go anywhere through a vast record collection, she has certainly paid her dues in a career that spans two decades today. She continues to pursue her own distinct path, avoiding the mainstream, but the world has cottoned on regardless, in part due to her steady stream of releases, fuelling her established reputation as a DJ.

Cinthie is indeed very busy, with all these various aspects of her career consuming her nearly every waking moment. And yet she took time of her demanding schedule to engage in an extensive Q&A with our blog, before she makes her way to Oslo and Jæger for a very special Øyanatt edition of Frædag.

I’ve heard that your dad was a DJ. What sort of music was playing around your house growing up and how did he eventually influence you by the time you started DJing as a teenager? 

Oh, unfortunately he wasn’t but that would have been fun. My parents were really into music, but mostly top 40 and some disco stuff and they bought a lot of records mostly because the CD wasn’t invented back then. I think their love for music influenced me most. 

By the time you started playing out, you’re 17 and by then you must have your own ideas about music. What was the seminal moment when realised that you wanted to be a DJ and who or what pushed you in that direction? 

Funny thing is, I indeed started out playing at a very early age and I loved it but I never wanted to become a full time DJ, it was more a hobby for me. I only thought about doing it full time around 2014 when I had my labels and some releases and I could really tell my career was picking up. So I gave up my job as I at least wanted to try being a full time DJ. 

Cinthie is your real name, which is quite the atpronym for somebody that went into a career in electronic music. Was the ambition to play and produce music always there in the back of your mind growing up? 

Back then I hated my name as it was neither Cindy nor Cinthia, it just sounded like an accident but now I love it. I always loved music, that’s what I remember and I made a lot of mixtapes and tried to produce my first tracks with an old cassette recorder by cutting out cool parts of tracks I liked back then. Sounded terrible of course hahah… just when I got older I understood that you could make music and do it also as a job. 

Your first record as Vinyl Princess came out during the era of electroclash, and you put out a few Electro records via Westbam’s label. Looking back on those records today, how do you think they relate to what you’re doing now in terms of music? 

Oh my, the good old days. Funny, that you know about it. I was so young but it was an amazing experience regarding how to deal with record deals and how the process works of pressing a record and distribution and PR etc. I definitely learned a lot. It was a fun start of my career and one of my Friends helped me a lot with producing, what I’m really thankful for. 

 

I believe you stopped DJing and making music in the mid 2000’s for a while. What was the reason behind that decision? 

I never stopped, I was just playing more in Berlin and started to throw illegal and official parties, I even played with an unknown Nina Kravitz back then at Tape Club in Berlin or booked Hunnee for one of my first parties. I came fresh from the label Electric Kingdom where I was signed to and was looking for something new. Also I finished studying and started my first job where I wanted to concentrate on. But for example in 2009 I was part of the Keinemusik crew right before I had my daughter. 

I know that you decided to get back into music after your mother passed away unexpectedly and you separated from your husband. It must’ve been a life-affirming moment, but what was the process like after that in terms of getting back into a DJ booth and working on music again? 

As I said I never stepped away from music, I was just not producing and kept it a bit more focussed on Berlin. Also I started my label Beste Modus in the beginning of 2012 and had a residency at Stattbad in Berlin, which closed down a while ago. Especially the label finally gave me strength and power to go my own way, I was kinda free to release whatever I wanted to and it was fun working my ass off for it. Since then the only way was up and it feels good to get a positive feedback on the things you do. 

I’ve read a few articles that came out in recent years and a few of them pegged you for a new arrival. What was it like coming back into that world and having to re-affirm all the things you had done in the past already? 

Since I was never really out of music, It wasn’t too hard at all. I guess I just stepped back into the international circle again. And finally I was able to put all my good and bad experiences from the past into my work for the label. 

Photo by Marie Staggat

Was there a huge difference in terms of the scene and the people between those two eras? 

Yes absolutely, I think the use of smartphones at parties changed a lot. Back then we just got lost in the music, nowadays also with social medias it’s more about an image or look, which is fine for me. If people wanna do it, that’s ok but I try to keep my stuff more music focussed. But of course it also has its advantages. With today’s technologies you can share your music in seconds to a worldwide crowd. 

Was there a dramatic shift in terms of the type of music that now lined your record bag as opposed to before? 

It’s funny that you asked that because I just talked about this with a friend the other day and I’m happy to be able to play all of my old house records from back then again and they still sound so fresh. So I’d say there is not too much of a difference. Of course I went a bit more stripped back for a while as there was the big minimal hype and not too much house stuff out but overall I was always looking for the perfect groove in my records and I kept that from back in the days. 

The music you made upon your return to the studio was certainly quite different from anything you made as Vinyl Princess, bouncing between classic House and Disco. What was it about this sound that particularly appealed to you as a producer in this phase of your career? 

Oh I made other tracks as well back then but they were simply not good enough to release. So I had to wait just until now. But when I started playing music I had a residency in a club and I always played 5 hours from opening to closing and played all the records I found while working in a record store. Back then of course I was more into the breaky stuff but I played pretty much everything, from more stripped back stuff, to house, even a bit of trance, electro , bit of groovy techno. Back then it was in the middle of the heydays of house and we received so many good records from the US, I found incredible stuff there. So now I’m putting all my influences together from New York to Chicago and Detroit , no matter if its disco or house or even almost techno like on my second Crystal Grooves record. I even made another electro track for my upcoming album. I just don’t want to put myself into a box. 

You’ve been incredibly active ever since and quite prolific in releasing records. What has been crucial to you being able to make so much music between touring and hosting club nights? 

Around 2,5 years ago I was sitting back and thought about my career so far and wondered if I was working hard enough and if there are things I can get better. Producing was the only thing were I felt I could add a little extra to it. So I renovated my studio to have the best sound and got obsessed about going there. I was watching every tutorial I could find, invited friends who ’s music I like and asked for tips. I was pretty much living in my studio and the 4 times per week studio days were and still are holy. At the moment I make it up to 2 days per week but this is my main thing at the moment and I see that it pushes me in a good way. So I keep it special and usually switch my phone off to not be disturbed. The touring I do at the weekends and I stopped hosting club nights a while ago as I thought I wasn’t very good at it. 

 

The music you make seems very focussed on the DJ’s perspective of the dance floor. Where do these two aspects of your musical personality intersect for you? 

Yes my music definitely aims to the dance floor mostly because I wanna be able to play my stuff. Very selfish I know. But I’m a club dj, so of course I make club music with a nice DJ mixing intro and outro. 

I assume Beste Modus was and is the perfect platform for your own music. What was the original intention around the label; did you ever think pressing the first 300 copies of your first record that it would lead to the point it is now? 

Yes Beste Modus is my baby. But when I came up with the idea and told the guys I never thought we were going so far. First it was just a try and then we couldn’t stop. 

It’s its own empire today with a record store, several sub labels, club nights and of course the artist/DJ collective behind it. What do you think has been so fundamental to its success? 

It all came naturally and it’s growing in a very healthy way. I think we just came up with the right music at the right time. Minimal stuff was over and people were hungry for a bit of groove. So we gave them the candies. When I look back I can definitely say it was good to bring in my Experience and that I was already a bit older and focussed and delivering quality with the labels and build up a good network. People appreciate that. 

803 Crystal Grooves the most recent development in the Beste Modus franchise if I’m not mistaken and so far it’s had three releases from you. Will this be an exclusive vehicle for Cinthie productions and what are some of the thoughts around this sub-label? 

803 Crystal Grooves is my own baby as I wanted to be more independent from the rest of the crew. Mostly because the music is different and I thought it was about time to shine which can be quite difficult on a various artist EP. Finally my tracks and my music is where I want it to be and I felt comfortable to release a full solo EP on my own label. It’s nice to have a crew around but to be honest, sometimes it’s hard and time consuming if you decide things democratically within 4 or 5 people. I wanted to avoid that in the future and keep the ball rolling a bit more as with Beste Modus we sometimes took too long and only had one release per year which is nothing. In the future I will concentrate more on 803 Crystal Grooves and I’m just about to start a new sub label for it which will be open for friends. It will be called 803 Crystal Grooves Collective Cuts ( sorry, all shorter names were out of stock hahahah ). My main focus for the next years will be to be as independent as I can to release my vision of music. 

  

 

All these different elements filter through the record store, Elevate, today. Is the record store the final piece of the puzzle; what else is left to be explored through the Beste Modus camp? 

It happened by mistake and it feels funny cause working in a record store is where it has all started for me. I’m still structuring everything but will definitely focus more on the store in the near future to share more music with people. Elevate PR by my beloved friend Jordan just got added to the roster but apart from that I think it’s enough. I was thinking to offer distribution for a few labels but it’s too much. It s unfortunately really hard to find the right people to work with. for now I will concentrate on my own productions, the store and my beloved little funny daughter. 

How is Beste Modus and all its subsidiaries a reflection of your sound as a DJ? 

My main focus is house but with all the subsidiaries I’m totally open for all kinds of house and I’m always happy to sign the music I like or play it in my sets. 

There’s that timeless House quality to your music and your DJ sets. Electronic music and especially music intended for DJs has to constantly evolve all the time, so I imagine that your intentions are always to try and make and play something timeless. How would you define that timelessness? 

I can’t really explain it, it’s just my taste I guess. 

But at the same time we’re all constantly evolving, so where do you see your music and DJ sets evolving to in the future?

As much as we are constantly evolving I think we are going back to the roots with the music. House music seems to get bigger again this year and everything will be a bit more friendly and cosy. I’m really looking forward to that and dig out some pearls from my record collection. 

Uncompromising: Anetha in Profile

There are few Boiler Room videos out there that ever manage to capture the throng and energy of a night out in a packed club with a really good DJ. The two-dimensional format, filmed from some unimaginable angle pointing straight at the DJ, rarely does the setting justice as blank stares and conservative movements look over the DJs shoulder into some vacuous black hole beyond the camera’s lense, for what? A track ID, perhaps… 

Everybody that’s ever been to a club knows that is not the way a club is or how people usually act in the absence of the hyper-self awareness that the age of social media has ushered in along with it. It’s a vibe that is incredibly difficult, né impossible to capture on a video… or at least that’s what I thought until I saw Anetha at Amsterdam on Boiler Room. 

Squirming acid, thunderous percussive arrangements and a corporeal energy strikes the viewer from its virtual plain in a very physical way that even through some shitty laptop speakers, has you capitulating to the beat and energy of the scene. On the video, phones are stowed in pockets and panoramic views of the space relay a frenetic scene as bodies move with absolute abandon, submitting to Anetha’s oppressive stint at the decks where she doesn’t give an inch. 

As a Boiler Room set, it’s up there with episodes like Danny Brown, Night Slugs in the hotel lobby and Skatebård as one of the classics, and as a set it’s a masterclass, defining Anetha’s unbridled and radical approach to DJing. “I really like (and try !) to oscillate between different styles of electronic music,” she said in a conversation with When We Dip. “(T)echno of course, but I also love acid, ravy melodies and strong grooves,” and that’s all there concentrated into the bare 45 minutes she gets at the decks, but makes a permanent impression on the listener. 

Since coming to the fore in Paris through the Blochaus collective, Anetha has flirted with the darker, salacious and more aggressive elements of club music, that is certainly Techno, but a breed of Techno that favours shadowy corners in concrete basements. With tempos exceeding 135 beats per minute Anetha is a DJ and producer truly deserving of that “uncompromising” tag we like to throw about when talking about Techno, but which very rarely actually applies to the paint-by-numbers droning beats that define the genre today. 

Andrea grew up in Bordeaux, but moved to Paris as a student, where she fell in with a crowd of kindred spirits. Raised on a selection of “new-wave and electronic stuffs” from her parents, Anetha turned to the natural evolution of those sounds and discovered the sounds and skill for Techno as she came of age. 

“I met Farouk (which is my manager now) and his brother four years ago during a party in Paris, and we quickly discovered that we had the same passion for techno music,” she told When we Dip. She found she had “the same influences and the same ambition to do something for the capital’s night techno scene,” so when Farouk and his brother  “were looking for a resident,” the answer looked them square in the face “and Blocaus was born!”

A club night turned label, Blochaus has had a serious impact on the French scene. Like Anetha’s sets they would leave a serious impression with their nights and records playing on that very same intensity and immediacy that she conjures through her sets. There’s never a moment to really think about it, before you are raptured into awesome power of the tracks she pieces together through her sets. 

“After a year in Paris, thanks to Blocaus and other great collectives such as Sonotown and Concrete,” Anetha had “been progressively” able to find her niche in the French capital and as her records for the likes of Blochaus and Oaks made their way out into the world, it would bring her sound and sets to an international audience that reveres her uncompromising pursuits in music today.

Like her sets, Anetha’s music would drift between those elements of Techno Acid and ravy keys that define her sets. She quite simply burst onto the scene with her debut on Work Them Records, “Ophiuchus” with four Techno thrillers that culminate on the salacious and brooding finalé “Drive With A Dead Girl.” Mixmag called it a “A laid back trippy workout with an enchanting arrangement of gothic synths meandering around in the mids, with a slowly building atmosphere which is punctuated by a woman’s voice, leading into a slightly more frenetic second half,” which describes the track in some detail but doesn’t even come close to relaying the vibe she imbues on that track. 

Apparently inspired by David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, the down-tempo rhythm, the hypnotic, sequential bass-line and the ravy keys, reaching up to hedonistic heights, sets a sinister and alluring tone, that instantly draws you into the track’s beguiling construction, enticing you over to the more sordid depths of Techno music while those effervescent toms bubbling under the surface in 16th beats evoke the corporeal underground appeal of Anetha’s DJ sets.

“Underground or not,” said Anetha in an interview with Music Creations last year, “VIBE is now my reference criteria.” She brings vibe in spades to the dance floor in her music and, as we can see on Boiler Room, to her sets. 

After making her debut on Work Them Records and a 12” on Blochaus Series establishing her career as a recording artist, it was a track on an Anagram compilation called “Acid Rain” that installed her as one of the future icons of Techno when the popular Techno YouTube channel HATE posted it. At the time of writing it’s reached almost 1.5 million views, which like the Boiler Room video shows no sign of slowing down. “Acid Train this track is the perfect representation of the ‘never give up’ proverb,” Anetha explained to Music Creations at that time. “It was part of a pack of tracks I sent to various label and each time they choose another track. Finally the Anagram label guys listened to it and they choose it directly.“

It’s a progressive track with something of that resolve Anetha mentions captured in sound. Through hazy fog of synthesisers and wispy noise a minimal wave gated snare and kick arrangement puncture the atmosphere of the track. As the name suggests a lysergic deluge ensues with a 303 raining down on the track. It’s a dynamic track that breaks up the monotony of the 4-4 kick, with that powerful snare and it’s in that kind of dynamism that is a big part of Anetha’s appeal both as an artist and a DJ.        

It’s brutalist without being boring, or monotonous, with a kind of bubbling fervour  hiding behind the crux of her tracks and her sets. There’s an unbridled passion there that just seems to cut through the shit and hits you straight in the cut, with her whole approach simply dedicated to the music. External factors like politics have no role in her music, and one of the few things that she does “not like is the question of the place of women in techno, which is (or should not be) relevant to me at all,” she told Music Creations. 

Everything comes down to simple sake of the music and the vibe that she seeks out through her sets. With news of the new label, Mama Told Ya and the possibility of a future LP in the works, we’re only at ground zero in Anetha’s career and with the entrance she’s made, nothing it seems will stand in her way to become a dominating force on the Techno scene.  

 

*Anetha plays Øyanatt this week with I hate Models, Skatebård and Daniel Gude.

A revolution in sound with Tod Louie

Do you think the Det Gode Selskab will go on forever or do you see an end to it?

“I don’t think I see an end to it,” says Terje Dybdahl punctuating the sentence through staccato giggle. “Is that boring? I don’t really picture a life without hosting events.”

Terje Dybdahl (Tod Louie / Dick Dennis) and Det Gode Selskab are in their ninth season this year and have already left an indelible legacy on Oslo’s electronic music- and DJ scene. Terje  and his partner Christian Berg (Solaris) have taken the Det Gode Selskab from a simple party concept to a DJ collective, events series, festival and label over the course of their existence and even with a decade of Det Gode Serlskab approaching, there seems to be no end in sight for them.

“In the future we might do things on a smaller scale” says Terje, contemplatively sipping at a glass of white wine on a sidewalk in Grünnerlokka, but it’s hard to imagine Oslo, especially on a hot day like today, without the Det Gode Selskab’s presence. 

For the last nine years Det Gode Selskab has taken clubbing al fresco, moving club culture out of  dank basements and into the fresh air, recontextualising it in Oslo’s striking natural surroundings, from fjørd to forrest, as a backdrop. Together with their weekly residency at Jaeger with Philip Hinz, Det Gode Selskab are a weekly fixture in the Oslo scene and as they move into their teens and broach the next evolution as a label, they are taking Det Gode Selskab into brand new territories.

As Tod Louie, Terje has embarked on this next phase with Det Gode Selskab in a new phase for Tod Louie, Dick Dennis, and Terje Dybdahl. Although he has permanently staked his claim as a DJ, he’s finally made that leap into the studio to add producer to his list of titles, with a new 12” released this week through the Det Gode Selskab record label.

After A:G debutted DGS records last year with the Nose EP, Tod Louie continues the label’s journey through the five senses, looking towards the future of the label through the aptly titled “Eye,” (or “Øye” in Norwegian).  

The 12” is Terje’s first foray into production as a fully-fledged artist. Following the collaborative remix on DGS001 with Karl Fraunhofer and Solaris, Tod Louie makes his mark with the title track and shares the record with remixes from label partner Solaris and long-time associate Mike Shannon. Terje’s original undulates over a bedrock of metallic kicks and bulging basslines, with frosty synthetic textures, coaxed from a modular synthesiser floating in the upper atmosphere of the tracks. 

After making a significant contribution, well into the track. These fundamental elements give way to a quirky pseudo-improvised hook that charms and warms the listener to a human dimension behind the track, before lurching back into that stoic groove that underpins it all and Tod Louie’s sound as a DJ.  

Groove is essential to the way Terje approaches music, with “mostly basslines” drawing him to the tracks he plays in his sets. 

Photo by Richard Ashton

The Eye has been nine months in the making and for Terje it’s a “track that goes through four seasons.” “You get a lot of time to consider all the elements,” explains Terje, and it was during this maturing period that Terje felt emboldened to finally take that step into the role as producer, something which he has eluded him in the past due to the time constraints of being a full time DJ and promoter.

Terje “could have easily started a new project” during the time it took him to finalise the Eye, but his stubbornness and the “need to finish it” prevailed and eventually the Eye made it out into the world to critical acclaim from the likes of Mixmag and DJ Mag. “It’s a strong track” according to Terje and the reviews concur with an 8.5 out of ten from DJ Mag. The Eye sees him consolidate the Tod Louie sound as an artist for the first time, taking his distinctive sound as a DJ into the recorded format for the first time. 

Although Terje “was making music a lot” as “a teenager” he “never really took the time” to realise his creative vision with the allure of a social life being too dominant in his formative years as a DJ and promoter. “The party fascinated me more,” says Terje with a knowing grin. Being a “social” person he took more joy from seeing “people’s immediate reaction when you play a record,” than the extended reception that comes with putting a record out. 

The “interest” for rhythm and the “skill” has always been there with Terje nonetheless, but they remained untapped till he could devote enough time to that pursuit. 

Born and raised in rural Mysen,Terje a self-proclaimed “farm boy,” grew up in a very musical household. Terje hadn’t been the only Dybdahl who had found an affinity for promotion. His father, a local bar and restaurant owner had started putting events together with a focus on music when he took over the family business. “Since it was in the countryside you maybe had a club on Saturday and Fridays it might be more country music,” remembers Terje of his father’s endeavours. There would always be music playing around the house too and when his father “and some friends decided to turn a piece of land on the back of the farm into a festival space,” the peace and quiet of the rural countryside was forever disrupted in the Dybdahl family home and it got “quite busy there for ten years.”

Terje was about three years old when they held their first event. He grew up in the “middle of the festivities” and looks back on that era with great fondness: Late night rendezvous at the house after a party with his dad playing some rockabilly riffs courtesy of Roy Orbison and Elvis on the piano had kept a young Terje awake at night, listening intently to the hammering of the keys. 

Being born of a certain era, DJing and records had naturally planted the seed for a career in music. He had found a kinship with neighbour and future DJ and promoter Ole-Espen Kristansen (O/E). The pair started Djing together when Terje took over possession of his older brother’s decks. They played their “first big gig” when the people behind the Hyperstate festival used the Dybdahl farmland for an event called Atlantis, which saw Terje and Ole-Espen play on the same bill as Sasha and Ferry Korsten.

The bug had bitten, and by the time he was twelve, around 1999, an “interest for playing records” had taken up all of his free time. “CD mix compilations like global underground from Sasha” and an eclectic record collection that ranged from European Trance to classic House had informed his early musical development, before finding his voice later as Tod Louie in the age of the minimal Techy sounds that dominated Europe around the latter 2000’s.

Photo by Haakon Hoseth

He was a diligent student too and had a career path laid ahead for him to study space physics, but some bad career counseling and a life changing moment had set Terje on a very different path.

“The only place to study space science was way up north, and I had just found out I was gay, and I was like no, I’m not moving up there now.” Instead he moved to Trondheim to study communication and marketing and at the same time started hosting his own parties.

It was “around the time Facebook arrived, so everything was really new,” remembers Terje. “In the beginning it was venues, promoters and DJs that fuelled facebook with content,” and while he was spending his days studying its effects, he spent his nights putting it into practise. “That was interesting, and after that I really understood I had a talent for PR and marketing.”

It was in Trondheim that he would meet Christian Berg, who was studying music management at the time. They set up the Beat Foundation as Trondheim’s precursor to Oslo’s Det Gode Selskab, and had instantly found a dynamic working relationship where Chris would take care of the bookings and Terje would apply his skills which tends to “care more about the social aspects” of the events. 

They took the concept to Oslo where it was reborn under a new star as Det Gode Selskab and nine years on, the concept is still going strong. 

What’s the secret to their longevity?

“We try to reinvent ourselves,” explains Terje. “I think we did a pretty good job of keeping it interesting, and being a pop-up club and setting up in different places keeps it interesting” and of course keeps people interested. As a concept Det Gode Selskab is in a constant state of evolution and it’s only their weekly residency at Jaeger that’s remained consistent these last few years. 

That constant state of evolution is something that underpins Terje’s own career too. From playing ““european trance club music, english house influences, maybe a little harder house, but also garage” in the beginning to the more minimal techy stuff that he and Det Gode Selskab are none for today, Terje’s constantly repositions his purview from the DJ booth, and now the studio, with that “essential” groove underpinning everything he does. “Sound revolution – that’s what I want to present,” says Terje in a deadpan tone. 

Sometimes he just wants to indulge guilty pleasures though, and to that end he’s created the Dick Dennis moniker. Dick Dennis is the naughty city slicker to Tod Louie’s coy farm boy. It’s a DJ character that Terje has created originalluy for the queer events that he and some of Det Gode Selskab host together under the Everysome banner. “It connects in a good way” with Det Gode Selskab with residents often playing at Everysome and audiences moving between these two concepts without much re-adjustment.

Everysome is Terje’s connection to the Oslo queer community and guests have included luminaries like Eris Drew. It’s a platform to let Terje’s “naughty” side loose and that’s where Dick Dennis naturally thrives. Playing between those early garage influences, classic House, eighties Disco and screeching diva vocals, Dick Dennis’ record bag looks very different from the one that Tod Louie prefers, but through the groove and energy they find a common ground. “People work Monday to Friday, they need that energy,” explains Terje. “They’re not going to pay 150kr to sit there and wait. “

It’s that desire for immediacy and that need to deliver, that perhaps even inhibited Terje’s foray into the production chair. Although, I’m sure he would be quite content never donning the producer cap, there seems to have been a definite urge for some creative expression that has resulted in the Eye. Some frustration and possibly never having the right context had played its part in Terje’s late start as a producer. Although there had always been a piano at home, Terje never took up the instrument, and the limitations of his skillset had never truly found the right conduit for expression, until Karl Fraunhofer and Christian Berg help channel his ideas through the synthesisers and machines. 

“My creativity stops with my hands,” he remarks and although he would always eventually “get there” it would never  be “as fast as you want it to be like in a jam situation,” so Terje would often abandon musical projects before they were completed. So what change? Finding the right people to collaborate with. “It’s good to bring in technology or partners,” says Terje who often found it difficult to get down ideas from some vocalisation of a rhythm or a melody. That’s why he says it’s “always nice to collaborate with others.” Collaborating with Christian Berg and Karl Fraunhofer as a Det Gode Selskab trio has paid its due diligence on Terje’s own writing and producing endeavours, which all led to the Eye.

The three artists share a studio today and the effects of the collaboration and the new creative environment has certainly had an influence on Terje’s work, which the “Eye” can attest to. 

The press has hardly had time to cool down, and he’s already talking about future works.”Now I want to go on to experiment with House and bring in more ravier sounds,” he says. Motivated by the sets he’s been crafting as Dick Dennis and the likes of Eris Drew, whose “energy in the booth and persona” has been an inspiration to Terje lately, Terje is at the cusp of a new revolution in sound as a DJ, promoter and of course, now an artist. 

His predictions on the future and where it will lead Tod Louie and Dick Dennis are still fairly vague, and it seems that he is still formulating and compartmentalising them as our conversation turns to the future. With the newly created Dick Dennis character, Everysome, the label and the music, it seems that there is still no end in sight for the collective and its central figure Terje Dybdahl. 

 

*The Eye is available now at Filter Musikk.

*Terje plays every Sunday at Jaeger with Det Gode Selskab. 

Øyvind Morken’s favourite Jan Schulte tracks for an Untzdag

The chances are good that you’ve heard Jan Schulte on Wednesday at Jaeger. Øyvind Morken has been carrying the German DJ and producer’s music –  in its many guises – in his record bag for a long time, bringing it out on the right occasion for his weekly Untzdag residency, where it always finds a favourable reception.