International Deejay Gigolo Records: The Electroclash years

“Do you know Frank Sinatra… He’s dead… he’s dead,” Miss Kittin cackles in a distant tattoo as the Hacker’s electro beat chugs along. Few memories play out as vividly as when I first heard “Frank Sinatra” by the Hacker and Miss Kittin. I distinctly remember where I was, who I was with and the feelings that the record elicited. Today, it still evokes a visceral memory of surprise, awe and humour; not for its content within the current landscape, but for what it meant back then. 

Taken from the now highly acclaimed Miss Kitten and The Hacker’s “First album”, that formative experience with “Frank Sinatra” laid the groundwork for a musical taste that sought some distance from the mundane of what electronic music had to offer at that time. It was provocative for all the right reasons and brought electronic dance music back to something that was always intended to be; indifferent and at times completely at odds from anything in mainstream culture.

Not only did it cement an admiration for The Hacker and Miss Kittin both as a duo and individually, but it was also my introduction to a label via a compilation with some curious cover art and a name that would be difficult to forget; International DeeJay Gigolos Volume 2

Baptised by the record label that bore its name, International DeeJay Gigolo – which is often shortened to just “Gigolo” – the compilation left an indelible mark and informed a big part of my musical education; not merely for the music from the label but for an entire musical universe that would come before and after it. It’s a label that would grow as my own musical tastes evolved, and in the process of presenting new music, it would also be my introduction to an entire musical history that was distant and elusive to a still somewhat uninformed and still naïve enthusiast. Gigolo leads to Jeff Mills, takes a sojourn via Tuxedomoon, is entangled in the existence of Kraftwerk, and makes connections with contemporary labels like R&S. Throughout it all it keeps introducing the listener to new music and artists like Tiga, Mount Sims, Terence Fixmer and Adriano Canzian, and at the centre of it all; DJ Hell. 

Gigolo Records has been a significant chapter in the annals of club music. Even esteemed DJ,  DJ Harvey professed his admiration for it in DJ mag back in the day and for many DJs and enthusiasts of the same ilk it remains an important touchstone. It will be forever associated with the electroclash moment, but for anybody with eclectic tastes it goes way beyond that moment, tying the dots between Punk, Disco, Hip-Hop, Techno and Electro.

Gigolo came at a crucial time for club music and it not only found the perfect zeitgeist for its own ideologies, but went a long way in establishing that zeitgeist. It stood out amongst its peers for its unique and singular vision, driven by its sole owner and musical visionary DJ Hell (Helmut Josef Geier). It established a moment in music history we aren’t likely to witness again with that intensity. It wasn’t a specific sound – more a lack thereof – but an attitude that was at the heart of Gigolo and it all starts with the man behind the label. 

To understand Gigolo, you’ve got to take a trip through the history of one of the most enigmatic and individual DJs that has ever lived. A true and determined underground figure, DJ Hell’s history moves through club music history like Dante traversing the nine circles. Key figures and moments crop up in his own biography as if he’s recounting the story of our global scene, the faceless narrator of unflappable character. He’s never stealing the spotlight or craving the attention of his counterparts, but he’s always there, in the shadows working on the fringes like a true uncompromising underground hero. 

His career as a DJ starts with the advent of the nightclub, a concept still indistinguishable from the discotheque during the eighties. In Munich, or more accurately, a suburb outside Munich, a young DJ Hell is cutting his teeth, playing music from his local discotheque’s collection – DJs did that back then, when the music policy was still dictated by the sound of the place rather than the disc jockey. DJ Hell had shown a knack for picking the right records from the communal collection, consolidating it into a career as a DJ and then later a producer. 

Moving from the suburbs to the city DJ Hell became one of the first House DJs in Germany, parlaying his skills for mixing records into A&R for the Disko B label before becoming an artist and producer with his breakout single “My definition of House” on the then burgeoning R&S label. His work as A&R took him from Germany to New York, possibly sowing the seed for an eventual move to New York to be a resident at the infamous Limelight club alongside Jeff Mills.

This is where a large part of the story of International DeeJay Gigolos begins. In 1993 DJ Hell was a resident, sharing the booth alongside Mills in one of the most iconic eras and places for club music. It’s here where the story of the club kids of New York begins and ends with Michael Alig’s eventual descent into murder. Yes, DJ Hell was there for the beginning of that too.

It was DJ Hell’s close associations with Mills that planted the seed for Gigolos to exist. After hearing a couple of Disco “edits” from the wizard being turned at limelight, DJ Hell approached Mills with a proposal to release the music. Both DJs knew that the music wouldn’t suit any of Mills’ Techno labels, and he agreed to give the music to Hell to establish International Deejay Gigolos. This was a big deal. Jeff Mills hardly ever licences his music outside of his own labels and here is giving DJ Hell these tracks for free! 

“Shifty Disco” wasn’t the first catalogue number on Gigolos – no that honour goes to D.J. Naughty and David Carretta – but it was released in the same year the label sprang into existence and set the tone for what the label and this music would become. It turned it all on its head. Here’s the original Techno innovator, making Disco-inspired House, and what do you know… he’s very good at it. That raw impulsiveness that is Jeff Mills, is all over this record, but it’s channelled towards the fringes of Jeff Mills’ known universe, where vocal samples and strings sit buoyantly alongside syncopated hi-hats.

Shifty Disco and Gigolo came as a revelation in the late nineties. As we were marching into the millennium, Electronic club music became more and more codified. Lines began to be drawn in the sand, between House and Techno and Trance and its quickly-emerging subgenres where there had never been any distinctions before. Some factions started garnering superstardom on the basis of playing records to a dance floor, while others were happy toiling in the underground benefiting from the hype. It was a time of hyperinflation for club music’s equity stake in popular culture and DJs were playing to millions at the likes of Love Parade while producers like David Morales and Paul Johnson (original underground figures) got played on MTV. As it became trendy without much resistance from people that saw an easy buck, all sincerity went along with it and by the time the troubadours were playing saxophones alongside fedora-clad DJs playing “lounge House” nobody with any taste would be caught dead listening to a DJ, except maybe one – DJ Hell. 

DJ Hell and Gigolo were one of the few instuítutions that not only remained unique during this period, but also bridged a lot of gaps for people moving to and from electronic club music. As the owner, A&R and creative director for the label, DJ Hell’s punk-informed attitude to music and the business of music was one of the most authentic for a time of uber-commercialism for electronic music. There was no specific promotion, no hype, just an ideology and a look that resonated with an audience either coming to electronic music or moving away from the tawdry aspects of the music. 

As the label started to take shape and by the first compilation an aesthetic started to emerge based somewhere between the pop-sensitivities of Andy Warhol and the kitsch machismo of  the Arnold Schwarzenegger artwork for the label. (Later Arnold’s people would sue Gigolo for the use of his image, but that’s a whole other article). It was all carefully orchestrated by DJ Hell and even today a Gigolo record still jumps out at you from the shelves for its curious artwork featuring Amanda Lapore and Sid Vicious. 

Early releases from likes of the disco industrialist David Carretta, the eco-nihilist turned Hi-NRG punk Chris Korda (“save the planet, kill yourself”), House cadettes the Foremost Poets and Electro stalwart DMX Crew, not to mention the Hacker and Miss Kitten set a road map through electronic music that looked like a Jackson Pollock painting created by an AI. Even when Gigolo was releasing straight up House music, there were elements of something more going making unlikely connections between distant musical universes and it was quirky but above all idiosyncratic. There was an approach in breaking down barriers that permeated through it all, and although it was in the air with people moving away from what House and Techno became, Gigolo played a significant role in defining this period as Electroclash. 

If there is one track that defined this era and this spirit in music and offered something of a breakthrough, this would be “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation. Today that song has been immortalised in football stadiums the world over, but before it was that it set a watermark for what Electroclash would become. It’s instantly gratifying melody and fervent joviality, becoming an instant earworm for a whole generation of club-goers. It cemented the career of the artist and synth-wizard Florian Senfter, defining an era and a sound that would soon be immortalised through Gigolo. Right now, it might be as far removed from the original context as it was intended as a football stadium chant (or not actually considering DJ Hell’s own love for football), but even back then it was also probably the biggest crossover success for the label and the artist. Between the saccharine melody and the rocky nature of the synths that called to mind more Emmerson Lake and Palmer than it did Oakenfold, the record has clearly stood the test of time. It was and remains the definition of Electroclash and you can hear its influence on everything from Alter Ego to Boys Noize. 

Much like the whole ethos of International Deejay Gigolo, Electroclash was based on the absence of a particular sound rather than a specific genre. The prefix Electro is something of a misnomer, referring more to an epochal sound and character rather than the literal understanding of the genre Electro. It would fold in everything from Synth Pop to Disco to Techno with a focus on electronic sounds and an iconoclastic approach that tore down institutionalised barriers installed by “purists.” Electroclash held a middle finger up to the dogmas of electronic club music, establishing one of the most fertile and unassumingly progressive periods in electronic music. It came at just the right time at the end of the nineties when electronic club music was becoming more rigid and formulaic in the wake of some crossover success. 

DJ Hell saw all of this from his vantage point at a point where he himself had been established, and positioned International DJ Gigolo Records right at the centre of this incredible creative mælstrøm. There would be nothing expected or pastiche that came out of this period for Gigolo. Records like the electro-rock of Zombie Nation would live side by side with the rest of the catalogue, with the only common thread between these records being their raw and impulsive nature. There was an energy that sought to decimate the conformity gathering momentum in electronic music, offering a lifeline to a musical scene that was getting complacent.

The label  would never fall victim to this complacency and a record would never deign to cash in on the success from the last. The diversity of the label’s output was something like collage for someone with an attention deficit disorder. If for example “Kernkraft 400” was the record that broke the mould, it wouldn’t assume to take centre stage, and DJ Hell would pivot to something  completely different again and again. There was no blueprint or method, it was purely the impulses of a DJ with remarkably eclectic tastes and a laser-like focus, proven by the early success of a record like Zombie Nation’s and Dopplereffekts “Gesamtkunstwerk”. That last record had almost nothing in common with the first even though they were released around the same time, and today, much like “Kernkraft 400”, “Gesamtkunstwerk” stands as another classic record from that same era.

During a recent interview for Tiga’s podcast “Last Party on Earth”, Hell talks purposefully about this record as one of his greatest achievements as a label boss. From the artwork to the title, and of course the music, “Gesamtkunstwerk” is a masterpiece. Arriving, anonymously, via one of the legends of the Detroit scene, namely Gerald Donald (previously one half of Drexciya), it might seem like an obvious choice for a successful record, but at the time people were still just discovering the truly underground sounds of Drexciya and their other Detroit counterparts. Dopplereffekt was still unknown with some mystery around the main actors of the group, but you didn’t need to know the origin story to fall in love with the record’s dystopian grooves. 

Hell and Gigiolo brought Dopplereffekt to the fore with this record. It was probably the purist from of Electro that Electroclash would assume, demonstrating a mass appeal value for the Electro genre that we hadn’t experienced since Uncle Jams Army in the eighties. Electro had been a DIY indulgence for comic book nerds and synthesiser geeks, but even a stubborn rocker  hearing “Gesamtkunstwerk” for the first time, it was all s/he wanted to hear after. In 1999 when the LP was released, it stood as a linchpin for the whole Electroclash movement. The comical panic of Y2K, makes for a perfect backdrop in the group’s fantastical prose about sexual congress with mannequins and obstructing human fecundity, while machines drummed out rhythmic devices like a automatron motor city factory. 

There was a sense of absurdity at work even when the music was quite serious and it came to define the likes of the roster at Gigolo. Things like providing a platform for the aforementioned Chris Korda’s and his “church of euthanasia”; releasing Mount Sims’ “Hate Fuck” as a single for radio; and putting Amanda Lepore on the cover of records obviously provoked, but the intention was always with sense of fun, DJ Hell’s tongue always firmly cheek. A kind of Roy Lichtenstein for the new millennium, Hell and Gigolo took a slanted approach to pop-culture through a soundscape only JG Ballard could envision, and it worked. The records would be released into the world without any pressure from the label for the artists to do interviews or promote their work, and a whole generation flocked to them without much goading. There was something considered about the final product around a Gigolo release, which extended from the music to its packaging and it stood out on every record shelf.

It was an entire world contained, built around a cult-like family of freaks that Hell cultivated like Charles Manson without all the killing and with some actual musical talent. It’s possibly best represented in the funny, almost outlandish 2005 Gigolo documentary, Freak Show, where Hell takes the gang on the road, from Germany to the states, featuring a young Tiga, Miss Kittin, Traxx and a host of characters you couldn’t possibly write today. 

With so much music being released via the label one can’t simply dip a toe into the Gigolo catalogue during this period. There’d be tracks like Vitalic’s “Poney,” Tiga’s “Sunglasses at night” or Fischerspooner’s “Emerge” that would keep you engaged with the label though its popularity, but it would inevitably lead to records like Terenece Fixmer’s “Muscle Machine” or David Caretta’s “Dominion”. At the same time it could lead to a rabbithole to post-punk darlings like Tuxedomoon; resurrect forgotten gems like Shari Vari; or really turn everything on its head with a P. Diddy record. That’s not to mention DJ Hell’s own vital contributions throughout this period, including masterpieces like NY Muscle.

It’s in fact NY Muscle that stands as the fulcrum point for the electroclash era for me personally. With collaborators like LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Traxx, and Suicide’s Alan Vega, this record was something of the barometer from which we gauge the Electroclash period. Rock motifs and tunnel-vision like Techno live side by side in this record from 2003, which also started to mark the height of the success of the label sandwiched between tracks like Sunglasses at night and Justice v. Simian’s “never be alone.” 

Gigolo would honour the legacy from which it arrived and in some chaotic kaleidoscope of sound it would reconstitute and re-invigorate what had become stale and formulaic. In what is only a laboured analogy Frank Sinatra was truly dead, but the rat-pack survived in the form of Micahel Alig’s club kids born in the parallel world the label and its founder created. It was the right label for the right time and as much as it brought a whole new generation (this writer included) back to electronic music. It remains a significant label even today, and today its back catalogue often warrants some double-takes, like “wow, they released that!

From Gigolo’s heyday, electronic music’s success quickly rose in the popular consciousness, perhaps even leaving Gigolo behind somewhere between the stark minimalism of Berlin’s endemic influence. Those barriers that Electroclash broke down were quickly reinforced and only strengthened in its resolve to institutionalise a music that was always thrived in the obscure and impulsive. But it’s still some of the world’s best producers and DJs working today that came to the fore during that time. DJs like Tiga, 2 many DJs, Boys Noize, Erol Alkan and Ivan Smagghe (many of which collaborated or were featured on Gigolo) rose to prominence during this period too, and it’s no surprise that they continue to be acknowledged as some of the best in the world. Whatever was ingrained during Electroclash (even if Ivan Smagghe hates to admit it) has established them as unique entities on our scene today. 

And much like those DJs, Gigolo stands as a watermark in electronic music history. Some twenty years on, many of those records (and I have a fair few of them) stood the test of time. They haven’t been in the zeitgeist for some time but every now and then you’ll hear a DJ play a track and it immediately stands out amongst whatever else is being played, much like it did when it was in its prime. There are some similarities we can draw with the current era and the original Electroclash scene. Electronic music has reached a state of popularity it has never witnessed before, and at the same time has been diluted into bland tropes facilitated by accessibility and the economics. There are a lot of similarities that can be drawn to that time and now, and is setting a good precedent to set the scene for a new iconoclastic genre to exist, much like it did when Gigolo was there to establish it. Frank Sinatra is well and truly dead!

Schneider’s House with Anja Schneider

Anja Schneider has been a broadcast- and club DJ for 25 years. She cut her teeth in the world of DJing back in the nineties when the culture was still underground, precocious and even a little menacing. By the early 2000’s she was established, moving from DJing to label owner and eventually production as one of the founders of Mobilee. That label remains a touchstone for a very specific time in club music history as Techno and House went deeper and crossed over into popular culture. At the height of its popularity, Anja left Mobilee and almost immediately she established her own imprint Sous. Anja Schneider’s presence has been a fixture in the culture, especially through her work as a radio host and an electronic music facilitator for airwaves. 

Radio is something that she has always embraced, but even for all its positives it could also feel like a quagmire for a progressive club DJ like Anja, whose strong connection to the underground often left her stymied with her day job. Recently that has changed. 

“Now I’m radio free,” says Anja Schneider over a telephone call with some reserved excitement in her vocal chords. After twenty five years in broadcasting Anja Schneider has called it quits for radio. “To make a long story short… I had enough,” the German DJ and producer begins. It started when her programme at radio Eins ended abruptly when they pivoted to an all-rock programme during the pandemic. “Imagine, in Berlin!”, she mocks incredulously. She fielded a lot of offers from other stations and took on the monumental task of a daily drive time show at classic radio with a programme called Beats, which was all about “independent deep house.” She did a show for a year, “and then I couldn’t do it anymore,” she says, sounding exasperated. “It was too much and I couldn’t hear any new music.”

There had always been a sense of “frustration” for Anja working in “these big companies”  where it seemed “you’re always fighting” to get that “new shit” on the air. After 25 years she was “tired” and compounded by the situation, in general, Anja has taken a well-deserved break from the airwaves. It’s given her the opportunity “to breathe a little” and refocus her energies on the club dance floor. “Everybody from outside just saw me as a radio producer,” reflects Anja, and today she is looking to shed a little of that perception of her skills as a DJ.

Anja Schneider’s associations with radio run deep, especially in Germany. Since the early nineties she has been at the forefront of German broadcasters bringing electronic club music to the masses. 

It was all predicated by an interest for electronic music that started in her hometown of Cologne, where she first heard the sounds of Chicago and Detroit spilling out from a local record store. “I worked in an advertising company, and underneath there was this little Chicago record shop,” remembers Anja. There were all “these cool guys hanging” out in front of the shop, and her curiosity piqued, she went on to discover what electronic club music was all about. They turned her on to the likes of Underground Resistance while DJs like “Hans Nieswandt from Whirlpool production” exposed her to some of her first DJ mixes. She went deeper with fanzines and started buying the music, before she eventually made her way to Berlin and found a refuge on the dance floor at Tresor.

There she was “blown away” when she saw “Jeff Mills for the first time” and alongside influences like the “charismatic” Sven Väth, a nascent career as a DJ awaited, but it would have to wait a little longer. 

Anja’s focus had always been as somebody that “worked behind the scenes.” Her work in advertising which led to broadcasting kept her rooted in the background as a kind wizard of oz for club music, when it was still in its infancy. Instead of keeping it on the dance floor, Anja  turned her efforts to bringing what she heard in clubs on the weekend to the bigger audience of the radio. “I always wanted to make it (electronic music) more popular,” she explains. She started off as something “like a consultant” before moving on to become a “programme manager,” a position she enjoyed at Fritz radio for some time before her boss convinced her to take to the microphone as a DJ. 

After an initial reticence, it turned out to be the “best decision of my life.” She became “very successful” as a radio DJ and shortly after DJ requests started flooding in. A thought struck her; “if I can play for 80 000 people on the radio of course I can play in the club. This was the most stupid thought!” she now considers with a snicker. “I failed the first gigs and I had to learn to mix properly.” That didn’t take long. Moving over to a set of decks, after the simplistic push-button selections of radio programming, Anja Schneider’s reputation became two-fold. Already known for her cutting edge selections as a radio DJ, she became a double threat as a DJ that had the chops to back it up in the club too. 

Soon an “offer to start a label” followed. That label turned out to be Mobillee, a club music label that became home to artists like Sebo K, Pan Pot and more recently Gheist, and has been a significant fixture on club music since its inception, with Anja playing a large part in its success…

Anja trails off while recounting these early years. It’s always struck me and especially now speaking to her, that Anja Schneider lives in the present with an eye on the future. She’s never been one to reflect too heavily on the past in other interviews and talking to her she covers much of her career, with “…and the rest is history”. It’s reflected in what she does as a label owner with most of her efforts are focussed on bringing new artists and music to the fore. Recently she has established Clubroom, a mix series,”which is syndicated to several radio stations;” worked with up and coming artist, Joplyn for an amazon music exclusive; and released a compilation, featuring many new artists via her own Sous music label. 

The fairly young imprint has been around since 2017 with the debut LP coming from Anja Schneider herself. The record, called SoMe, seemed like a significant moment for the artist, producer and DJ, and much like the position she finds herself in today, after 25 years of being a radio DJ, it seemed like a watershed moment for her career. It established a new label, marked her departure from Mobilee and hinted to a more eclectic approach in her sound, as something she likes to refer to as “Schneider House.” Anja is not so sure however what really inspired this watershed moment or any of the others. “I’ve never been a person to make plans. It’s always been chaotic and organic” and creation of Sous records and the LP SoMe, could simply be an extension of that. 

Her decision to leave Mobilee, the label she helped create and cultivate in to its position today, “was not an easy step” for Anja.”It was quite difficult for me when I quit,” admits Anja and the fallout from that was a huge risk on her part too, but she was adamant on this new recourse. “With Mobilee, it was established, there was a lot of business,” says Anja. It was “too much pressure” to deliver in the end. She wanted a record she could put out without considering the practical commitments that go with being a label boss, things like paychecks and bills. “I wanted to do it whenever I wanted to and how I wanted to do it,” and that’s how Sous came to be. She was determined and it didn’t take her much time to establish herself again in the position she is now, with a new successful label and a very busy musical output. 

SoMe laid the foundation for her to explore new avenues in the larger network of her Schneider House sound. It extends to the label where “everything is possible” which reflects again in her DJ sets too. It’s a sound she’s established over the course of her career and much like everything else it’s a direct result of this chaotic and organic process to everything she touches.

It’s hard to believe today that Anja Schneider never wanted to be a producer. ”Everybody was asking why don’t you deliver a track?”; but she was quite aware of her own limitations. “I can’t do it,” she used to tell them until her friend Sebo K convinced her otherwise. She teamed up with that producer first and the result was a record called Tonite. All those latent ingredients are there that make this an Anja Schneider track. Melodic and immersive, yet thundering, it is a dance floor track that looks to the deeper end of the spectrum. Bubbling basslines and syncopated percussion keep it rooted on the groove while playful elements flutter through the arrangements.

Ever since her first release, she has always worked with a production partner and she picks no bones about the fact. “I love to work with different people,” exclaims Anja. “I like the interactions and the fights that you have with people,” she says with a laugh. 

Her latest production partner is her husband and renowned producer, Toni Planet. There haven’t been any fights yet according to Anja who has found the whole experience to be “super easy and fun” so far. In her relationships with any producer, it “has to click on a human side,” and working with her husband certainly has that covered. “On the other hand it’s really important to have something unique or authentic.” Anja “can hear quite soon, if somebody is trying to be trendy,” and music for her has always been about having an “authentic” experience. 

This is one of the biggest faux pas Anja has witnessed in her extensive career, as a DJ,  producer and label owner. “If you have to adapt, you are losing that authentic part of you.” She considers “it would be completely stupid” to have to adapt at all to what’s going on around her, especially now with a trend for harder and faster music prevailing. In what she claims is now her “fifth wave” of a new trend, she certainly doesn’t feel the need to compromise the authenticity of Schneider’s House for this new immediacy in club music. 

Anja’s music today actually  lives on the opposite end of the spectrum of the trend, yet she is still an in-demand DJ, which says much about her own authenticity as a producer and DJ. Her latest release Turning my Head, is a deep thriller operating on the lower ends of the BPM wars. A moody track that simmers between tension and resolve, it maintains that sound of Schneider’s House for lack of any other description. 

“It’s always deep,” she says of this sound. “I’m not a person with big breaks and drama”  and in her music you’ll find something that is tempered and introspective with a groove that undulates throughout. “This groove can also be a little breaky,” suggests Anja with tracks like WMF from SoMe as an example, but it’s always there and follows the artist from the studio to any DJ booth she commands. 

Much like her music, “everything is possible” when it comes to an Anja Schneider set and yet there is something specific to her sets that can live happily under the roof of Schneider`s House. Her only regret recently has been that due to the pandemic, “the last EPs were really slow and breaky” and like DJing she is looking forward to get back into the club “and make music for the dance floor again.’’ 

It’s hard to believe that it would take that long for Anja Schneider to achieve her goal. With the world back on its feet, her presence on the dance floor has been noted. Her touring schedule is back to where it was during her time at Mobilee and with more releases primed from her and her label, including a “big breaks” remix from Dense Pika, Anja Schneider is riding a new wave of success already. With the commitments of broadcasting now firmly behind her, she has retrained her efforts and set her laser-like focus back on the club dance floor. She’s setting the scene for a new generation of producers and DJs through her label and efforts like clubroom in that same altruistic approach  that has followed her through her entire career; to bring that “new shit” to the people. 

Luke Solomon: The unsung hero of House music on his own terms

It takes some kind of legacy to be called one of the unsung heroes of House music, especially when the accolade is bestowed by one of the best in the business, Andrew Weatherall. Luke Solomon is that unsung hero and has forgotten more about dance music than any of us can ever begin to know. He’s been a monolith in the scene since the nineties, but working in the background, behind the scenes, few people have acknowledged his presence like Andrew Weatherall, but that is about to change. 

We all first felt Luke Solomon’s presence on the scene as the resident of Space @ Bar Rumba alongside the legendary Kenny Hawkes. From there he established the Classic record label (Classic Music Company today) with Derrick Carter and set about defining the sound of House music in the mid and late nineties in Europe. A facilitator in the truest sense of the word, Space lives on infamy today as one of the infallible House concepts in the history of club music, while Classic has been responsible for some of the most legendary House records ever to be sealed in wax, many of them Luke’s own. 

As an artist he’s been active for the better part of his career, most notably as one half of Freaks together with Justin Harris, with whom he enjoyed (or rather not) also his first crossover success with the Creeps. Over the years, he’s carved out a career as a producer with a midas touch and it’s extended from his work with Harris and his solo work to a place where today he has hundreds of production credits on records for Honey Dijon, Horse Meat Disco and Beyoncé.

Yes, that Beyoncé. Together with his writing partners, Chris Penny and Honey Dijon, Luke Solomon penned the music for “Cosy” and “Alien Superstar” from her last album Renaissance and with a couple of Grammys pending, the fates have smiled on Luke as he steps into what many might say is his twilight years of a musical career, even though hes far from done.  

It’s not been without its struggles, losing friends like Kenny Hawkes and peers like Andrew Weatherall, and with all the other misfortunes and strifes that follow a DJ, it has only strengthened his resolve and he has taken it all into his stride. “I’ve been through a lot,” he says via a telephone call but it’s also been worth it on some level. “I get a lot of inspiration from the darkness and the parts of my life that I stumble and I feel that helps me creatively and that’s the greatest therapy.” 

Today he’s “writing with people like Seven Davis Jr.” and with “more queries coming from the pop world to make music” from his work with Beyoncé,  he’s found a new urge that has taken him back to that youthful spirit of the nineties and coming through as a new DJ and producer. “For instance, I was just in New York now working with Honey and loads of different writers, it was so much fun. I felt like a kid then. Nothing mattered and we could do what we wanted and any idea was a good idea.” 

It’s this work that he’s doing behind the scenes outside of the spotlight that in many ways defined Luke Solomon as one of the unsung heroes of House music in Andrew Weatherall’s eyes. Between his production work and his A&R activities, he’s laid the groundwork from which artists like Derrick Carter, Honey Dijon, Horse Meat Disco, Camelphat and many many more have built very successful careers. Today he continues to do the A&R for Defected, with many industry experts claiming his efforts have played a pivotal role in that company’s latest successes. 

And throughout it all he still DJs and continues to tour the world on the skills he first laid down at Space @ Bar Rumba. It’s at the UK club he first met Olle Abstract and with his appearance at LYD pending it’s here where our conversation begins. 

Luke SolomonWhat do you remember of the nights at Space @ Bar Rumba?

Absolutely nothing… (laughs)

So it must have been a really good night then?

Yeah, I’ve been having to think about this alot at the moment, because me and a couple of people from the club have done a compilation, which is dedicated to Kenny Hawkes. I’ve been thinking about the different nights and the different DJs. I think we captured a moment in time. The stars aligned for what was this really special place. 

If I’m not mistaken Classic was established around the same time. 

Actually, Girls FM happened, which was the Pirate station I played at with Kenny. The club night started as a result of the radio station and our relationship, and Classic sort of happened around the same time. It’s a bit of a blur. 

Does that mean the music policy at Space kind of reflected the sound of the label?

It was Deep House, the original version of Deep House coming out of Chicago and New York and led by labels like Prescription and Cajual. It grew and became more eclectic. We would play Disco and the sound of Brit House, and then the Nu Disco sound happened. 

What were people like that came out to the event, because it would take a huge commitment to come out every week, right?

It was chaos. A  lot of industry people would come because it was the middle of the week. That was always fun and hedonistic and then you had what we called the Deep House 150; which was about a core of 150 people that were dedicated Deep House fans that would come out every week. If it was a big night, and with a guest DJ like Andrew Weatherall, Harvey or Derrick Carter it would be a roadblock. 

You mention Derrick Carter there, the co-founder of Classic. Would you often have Classic artists on the lineup?

Yes, and a lot of people that used to play for us, ended up becoming Classic artists. It was a mixture. People like Gemini and Ron Trent were regulars. It was interesting, because when we first started, we had Ron Trent and Chez Damier and we had like 50 people. And then fast forward 12 months and we had 300 people. I think we broke that sound in London before anywhere else was playing this kind of music. 

What led to the night coming to an end?

Kenny was in charge of running it and I was the resident DJ. He realised that what was happening in Soho and in the west end was that music was shifting more towards the east end. We thought it would be better to end it while it was on a high, rather than feed it every week. We were both playing every weekend, the labels were firing on all cylinders and Freaks was just happening for me. So, there were lots going on so it was a good time to pull the plug.

Did it cement anything in terms of you and DJing going forward at that point in your career?

Yeah. I still stand by the fact that it taught me how to be a warm-up DJ and it’s still the thing that I enjoy more than anything else. Starting a club from the beginning when there is nobody in the room and filling the dance floor, I learnt all that playing from Bar Rumba. It was the time when you could break new records and keep things mellow. That was valuable for me and I carry that with me.

Do you still get opportunities to warm up?

All the time, that’s my favourite time to play. Especially if I play before Honey Dijon or Derrick. Recently I played in New York and I opened the club elsewhere in the 2nd room, and I played all night, and I love that. It’s on your terms. It’s quite tricky when you’re coming in after a DJ and you’re the guest; a lot of the time DJs don’t warm up for guests anymore. 

Let’s backtrack a bit. We know a bit about your history and how you came to electronic music through cassettes, then records and raves. What were those first records and what do you remember from the raves?

The eighties are a little foggy (laughs). In my hometown, on Monday nights, we had DJs from London that would play and educate us. We learnt about records like early Frankie Knuckles’ “baby wants to ride.”  And then Acid House, like Joey Beltram’s Energy Flash. We were exposed, early on to those records alongside Soul II Soul and rare groove records. I was fortunate enough to hear a lot of different DJs, maybe not well-known, but really good DJs play a mixture of proto-house music. I remember hearing stuff like “love can’t turn around” and “promised land” before it went into the charts. They were anthems to us long before they became crossover records. 

There’s been this mythic view of that time and the nineties, especially with this new generation coming through. As somebody that’s lived through that time and with the level of your success, what was your experience of that time looking back?

I think we realised we were living through a Golden age. It was very different being an 18 year old in 1988, living through the summer of love and going through outdoor raves. And then moving to London being exposed to club culture and seeing that part of things. You just knew that if you went record shopping, you’d find some incredible records. Being in amongst it, we were quite spoiled, especially looking back at it now. It’s interesting, you were in something, but when you were in it, you didn’t realise it quite so much. 

What do you think of this nostalgic view of that era today, because for me it feels a lot of it has become pastiche?

I agree with you. I think technology is to blame for a lot of that stuff. It’s so easy to make those records now, but making them with the spirit of the originals is a very different  thing. I think it almost regresses, and nostalgia has a very bad effect on dance music. It’s important to be progressive. 

I guess when you started out, you and your peers would be working on rudimentary equipment, and it was about experimenting. 

I think that’s why modular (synthesisers) have their place in the world, but I think that has almost gone too extreme now. I feel that stripped down chaos (from the nineties) is missing. It was still that kind of raw, black funk that was born from Motown, Disco and Prince and then going into Acid House. The laziness  of making music is a strange thing for me, especially when there are so many great musicians around. I do think that is changing. I hear dance music, especially coming out of America that’s pushing the boundaries again. 

I feel artists like Byron the Aquarius and Galcher Lustwerk are exciting in that regard.

Yes, exactly.

But, you’re also a big part of that I feel, with the stuff you’re doing with Honey Dijon and where that has taken you.

I feel like I’m part of something, but I like to surround myself with young, inspiring people. To get that energy from the new generation and be part of that new movement. 

Luke SolomonHow did you and Honey start working together?

We’ve known each other for a long time, since the mid-nineties. We’ve been friends for that long and we kind of grew up together. I think there was a point where she started making more music outside of DJing and we put a couple of things out on Classic, and then we started working together and that led to her album and Beyoncé. It happened organically. We’ve got very similar tastes. Alongside Chris Penny (Luke’s writing partner), it’s like being in a band. 

While we’re on the subject of Beyoncé, how did that happen?

Her creative director is a big fan of Honey’s and we got a mysterious email during lockdown. They told us that she was working on a new album, and they wanted to take black music and dance music back to its roots, and she wanted team Honey Djon to be involved. It grew from that to having two songs on the album. It was a very bizarre and amazing process which ended up in two grammy nominations. (laughs) I laugh every time I think about it. 

What is it like working in that tier of the music industry, coming from House music, which has always been more DIY?

You know the greatest thing about it was that it has been completely on our terms. To imagine the music we make anyway with Beyoncé singing on it, it’s like a dream. We just made the music we make. We may have to move the tempos, or be more creative with the arrangements. It was still based on very cunty records, records from the ballrooms in New York, music that me, Honey and Chris had grown up with. 

We are just applying all our knowledge and all our history and giving it to someone who would understand it. What you hear, beats-wise and samples, that’s what we did. They didn’t change a thing. The only thing we had to do was slow down “Cosy,” that’s when you realise you’re making something for the pop world. 

It’s not your first flirtation with success and being at the top of the music industry. You were there before with The Creeps as one half of Freaks. I read an interview where you said that with a song like Creeps, the money didn’t justify the sacrifices you had to make.  Was there something that has since changed your mind and put you on this path to working with more pop artists?

The Creeps wasn’t really on our own terms. That version of Creeps that came out, came from a remix we never approved. I feel like we ended up making a record that I didn’t get behind 100%. We were young and suddenly money is appearing and people are putting pressure on you to make another record. Lack of experience puts you in a very strange headspace, and I really battled with it. 

Now that I’m older and I’ve learnt from that experience, I know exactly how to do it without making the same mistakes. This is on my terms. We’re doing it without any compromise. In terms of the financial aspects; I’ve been through the loss of a record company, where I’ve had huge debt.  I’ve been in a position where I wasn’t getting any DJ work. I had to get a job and work for Defected. I’ve had to go through so many different versions just to stay in dance music. Now I’m at a point where I’m really comfortable with that. 

You certainly took it in the stride and I think your hundreds of production credits on other artists’ records stand as testament to that. Were there ever any regrets about directions you’ve taken working with other artists?

I’ve never been good at playing the game. I know what to do and how to do it. Throughout all of this, I don’t think there’s a moment in my creative career where I have had any regrets. Even looking back at the Creeps, I don’t think I could’ve made the Beyoncé record without going through that experience. Great music is great music, and I’m not drawn by the spotlight anymore, I just want to make great music. 

And do you approach the music differently when you make music for somebody else than working on a Luke Solomon track?

100%. When I make a record with Honey, I have to be inside her head. It needs to sound like her, it needs her spirit. That comes from intimacy. I like to have intimacy with music that I care about. You have to become somebody else to be those people. When it comes to me, I’m just in my head. 

When it comes to your own music, there’s still a prolific output. Between all your other production projects, your daily A&R activities and Defected and DJing, where do you find the time for all of this; what’s essential to that work ethic?

I’ve always been able to manage my time. If I make a record a week, and I’ve done that for the last 25 years, then I feel like I’ve accomplished what I need to do. Whether it’s a remix, or working on a Honey record, or producing and writing for someone else, as long as I do that I’m good. 

Outside of that, the A&R is just; every Thursday and Friday I just sit and go through music. I listen, I buy records, I travel to buy records, that’s A&R. It’s about attaching yourself to things that you see coming and artists that you might see developing. DJing then feeds from that. I don’t think it’s that difficult to do a lot of things in 24 hours if you are just dedicated and obsessed with it. The only thing I’ve had to change was my day to day at Defected. I’ve got so much production work, so I’m just doing A&R. I’m not the guy that’s on the ground everyday like I was. 

I’ve had to kind of move things around now, because we are in a position where there alot of new opportunities. Obviously off the back of the grammys there are doors opening. Things are shifting and changing, but I’m still the same person doing the same thing, it’s just in a different world I guess. 

Since we’re the subject of Defected. I’ve heard people in the industry acknowledging your role at the label and how you’ve changed things around there. Is there something specific you’ve done there that has contributed to this perception?

(laughs). It’s interesting. Somebody else said that to me, and it’s a lovely thing to hear, but I never really thought about it. My relationship with Simon Dunmore (Defected founder) over the years has always been that I’ve been the yang to his ying. I offered an alternative perspective to dance music, which I think allowed Defected to reach or attach itself to other places or people. 

That kind of just happened. I still have an ear. When Camelphat’s Cola came through the door, I could hear it was a big record immediately, the same with the Oliver Dollar’s Pushing on. I knew they were big records, so I could stand there quite confidently saying, sign these records. It took a long time for people to really acknowledge my place in the industry, and it’s only happened in the last two years.  

Andrew Weatherall once labelled me the unsung hero of House music. I loved him and cursed him for that. I never wanted to be the unsung hero, I wanted people to acknowledge that. Getting that recognition now feels good. 

Working in the background like that as the person that makes these moves that make waves on an international scene, what do you personally get out of that?

(Laughs) That’s a really good question. I spent a lot of time not putting myself first, and doing a lot of things for the culture. Recently it reached a point where I decided that I have to think about myself a little bit more. This next part of my career is where I have had opportunities that I’ve never had before and I thought I would never have. The possibility of winning a grammy and these doors opening that I’ve never had before. I feel like I’m getting reimbursed. 

You’ve seen your fair share of people come up alongside that managed to break into that upper echelon of the underground scene. People like Derrick Carter and more recently Honey Dijon. Has there ever been any frustration on your side?

I’ve watched so many people push past me, and I don’t think I was ever ready. I don’t think I was a good enough DJ or producer. I think I was still learning and I’ve now reached a point – even though it’s this late in my fucking life (laughs) – and I feel like I have an equal standing with those people now. 

I’m not big on resentment and regret, I’ve always been an optimist. If I’ve ever seen on of my peers be in a position where I felt that could have been me, I always thought, that is going to be me someday. I’ve always been an “I’ll show you person.” 

There were so many times I could have walked away. Besides that, losing dear friends, and actually ironically it’s some of that grief that I suffered that’s kept going. If Kenny hadn’t died, life would have been very different for me now. He’s the reason that I got sober; he’s the reason I took my job more seriously; he’s the reason I do what I do. I feel very fortunate.

So you’re able to compartmentalise all that industry stuff from the personal stuff and from the music that you make?

Yeah, now I am. Because I’m comfortable in my own space. I don’t think I have to make a big record, because it’s going to help my DJ career. I don’t have any interest in that at all. You know, I’ve been asked to do a House master’s compilation for Defected, and the first thing that came to my head was; “are you sure?” And then we went through the list of other DJs and artists that have done it,  and I was like; “actually I do get to stand by my peers.”

 

Everything starts with a beat: An interview with Dusky

There’s a sound inextricably connected with London on Dusky’s latest LP, Pressure. From the tangible Garage-influences to the atmospheres, heavily imbued with the weight of a post-dubstep experimentalism, the whole album echoes with the sounds of the English capital and the production duo’s heritage.  

“We both grew up in different parts of North London” explains Alfie Granger-Howell while Nick Harriman carries in a cup of tea in the background of a video call. The pair have been making music together for the better part of a decade with 4 LPs, a few dozen EPs and a record label (17 steps) bearing the fruits of the labour as Dusky. 

Coming to the fore during London’s explosive post-Dubstep era, Dusky established a sound in the fusion between House and Dubstep, bringing the heavy drones of the UKs bass traditions to the slower tempos of House. They broke through with tracks like Flo Jam, and as their contemporaries started solidifying their sounds around traditional genres like Techno and House, Dusky remained fluid in their approach and their style, based on a tradition of Djing that sees them channel a combined record collection through their work.

In different epochs, they’ve focussed their sound on different elements in their own music education only to land on where it all began for them as teenagers with the sounds of Garage. In the recent revival and new appreciation for these sounds, Pressure finds Dusky in yet another phase of their sound together, while retaining that thread with a track like Flo Jam, which was also re-issued this year on their own 17 steps label.

As a record, Pressure picks no bones about its designs on the dance floor, launching into a rhythm and bass combination that anchors the entire record in the club experience. Those familiar disembodied ‘90s R&B vocals that’s centrals to Dusky’s sound drift in and out of tracks, while two-step beats and those hollowed out bass sounds bring an eager Funk to the record. The record shows their evolution and growth as artists continue to hit a nerve, while that virtual melting pot of sounds that makes London such a unique musical entity on the world map, continues to feed their work. 

As Alfie and Nick sit down with a fresh cuppa, we get stuck into a conversation about how the city has influenced their work and how they have channelled various aspects of a UK sound through their work and DJing. We jump straight in with Pressure. 

With those Garage sounds and two-step beats, this record sounds like London. Is that something you were trying to achieve?

Nick: We had a few Garage-inspired ideas, because there a lot of new Garage we were enjoying and playing out in our DJ sets. It snowballed, and before we knew it we had a load of Garage-influenced material.  

Alfie: There was one track from the previous album that started it, called “Eros”. We really enjoyed making that and it came together quite quickly. It just kind of feels like the right time (for this music). There’s also a lot of reference to that era. It felt like the right time to hark back to that era. 

I think it would be safe to assume it’s quite different from your last two LPs Joy and Outer. Was this an outlier record for you or just a natural evolution in your sound?

Nick: It’s definitely natural. It makes sense (in the context) of our influences growing up. We used to listen to a lot of Garage; it was everywhere on the radio during our teenage years. In the narrative of all of our albums, it’s probably a bit of an outlier. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s good to switch stuff up and be a little different.

Another thing that I also noticed that is a little different is that it’s also more immediate. There’s no ambient preamble, it just kicks off with a … kick and goes straight into those dance floor tempos. Was that conscious?

Alfie: I think that is something that is very different to our other albums. The other albums were compiled as a listening experience, whereas Pressure is a lot more club focused. In a sense it is wanting to reference classic Garage tracks and our record collection. Everything starts with a beat and it’s a DJ friendly way of starting tracks. It just felt right for this stuff, because there’s this established thing out of Garage and classic House.

Garage is having a bit of a revival right now. It seems that you are pretty sensitive to what’s going on around you. Or is that just a happy coincidence? 

Alfie: No, it’s definitely influenced by what’s going on. Even going back to when we were telling you about when we started making music, both of us were DJs by then. Obviously we were not doing gigs when we were teenagers, but we were buying records. It’s always been a passion of ours, following what else is going on and seeing how scenes grow and evolve.  When we make something to a certain degree, whatever we feel like will be a blank slate and then the other part of it is referencing what else is going on in the zeitgeist or whatever. 

Nick: You need to be aware of what’s going on, but not try and chase what’s happening. Otherwise you’ll just be trying to catch up. You just need to take influences from what you were enjoying from music. You just need to take that into the music you are making, and inevitably it will be different from what other people have made. As an artist you’ll be bringing your unique take on those influences, whether from the past or present. That’s worked well for us over the years. 

DuskyYou mentioned, Garage was big when you were teenagers. Is that around the same time you started to make music?

Nick: Pretty much.

Alfie: I started making very rudimentary things, when I was 13/14 and that was the kind of peak era, end of the nineties. Garage was everywhere in London. The other big influence around that time was Drum n Bass and the very end of the Jungle era. Both of those things always stuck with us because they were such formative years.

So you were teenagers when you started making music individually, but how did you first meet, and what encouraged you to start working on music together?

Alfie: We met when we were 16. We both studied music in different places doing different things. We had this project before Dusky (Solarity), that we released a few EPs on via AnjunaDeep. 

Actually the first LP as Dusky, originally it was going to be an album under Solarity. It was only halfway through that we realised it drifted quite a lot from the Solarity sound. The label pointed out it was quite different, and you need a new alias.  

That would be around the post-dubstep era. Coming up in that scene, was there anything that particularly facilitated your music and your career?

Alfie: I think we were very lucky in that era that we started Dusky, it was a very interesting time. It was fertile ground, because there were a lot of people coming from these different scenes, which were merging. Dubstep got very noisy, and that put some people off. For whatever reason that “Deep House” sound seemed to attract different people from different scenes. 

Nick: I think what helped push us in that hybrid scene was Loefah. He supported our music on the Swamp show (rinse FM) and at that time that was the shit everybody was into. Even though we weren’t doing anything specific with post-Dubstep, that was the connection with that world and it opened up a lot more gigs for us. 

I think what facilitated a lot of  the creativity in that era was the openness to experimenting.

Nick: For sure. There was a lot of variety, and that’s what I was saying about that time being very (reminiscent) of what the younger people are doing now. 

It also seemed that there was a real platform for new artists to emerge. 

Nick: There weren’t any gatekeepers. You didn’t have to have the approval of anyone to be a success. There were less barriers

Alfie: It was a level playing field.  

The other record that piqued my interest this year was Flo Jam which you re-issued via 17 steps. Flo Jam wasn’t your first release, but certainly a breakthrough record. Would you agree?

Nick: Yeah for sure. A lot of DJs playing across the board played it. We just re-released it because we got the rights back from the label. 

Why reissue it now?

Nick: It was originally on Dogmatik for 10 years…

Alfie: Well they are no-more. It just came down from Spotify one day, and that’s how we realised the rights had come back to us. People were like; “where’s flo jam” and we thought; “we should re-release it.“

Listening to that record today and then Pressure, there is certainly a leap in terms of sound. Is there anything significant change between those two records for you?

Alfie: It’s quite hard to tell. It’s interesting going back analysing our music like that. Often we don’t try to think about it too much when we are writing it. I think they are quite different, but they do have some common influences. 

Nick: There’s definitely a common influence in the sense that Flo Jam was very much influenced by Garage, but at a much slower tempo. Everything was slowing down. Dubstep was quite fast and then House was just coming a bit slower. That nineties R&B vocal is the thread that ties in the stuff with pressure and some of our earlier tunes.

And what’s stayed consistent in terms of the creative process throughout it all in your music?

Nick: Our setup hasn’t changed much, it’s remained in the box. We are actually still using the same speakers.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

Alfie: Yeah, we tried some other ones and then went back. There are some things that keep track of the Dusky sound just in the way things are mixed and layered and the way we sample. I think most of it’s this kind of automatic thing that there’s this consistent sound. Broadly there’s this continuum. 

You’ve remained consistent as a duo too. Whereas some groups may go off into different directions, you’ve stayed together. What is the key behind that?

Nick: I guess it’s because we started making music together when we were quite (young). It’s always worked well, and it’s continued to keep developing.  It’s still enjoyable.  

Alfie:  And we’ve got complimentary skills. I was most interested in composition, whereas Nick was more focussed on the production side of it. That made it a good marriage. The other thing is that we have very similar tastes, but not exactly the same. If it was exactly the same it would be quite boring. 

There’s an idea that working in a duo that the music can go in a direction that you never thought it would, working as a solo artist.  Do you feel that’s true for you and your music or are there more distinct roles?

Nick: It’s completely mixed. It’s the same as when we’re DJing as well. If one of us is playing something the other one didn’t expect, then it just sparks new ideas. 

And while we’re on the subject of Djing; you mentioned earlier that you’re quite aware of what’s happening around when you’re making music. Is that the same for Djing?

Nick: For sure, because we need to be looking for new music all the time, right. To keep our sets fresh. 

The last few sets I’ve heard from you, were leaning to the sounds of House with some connection to the sound of your Joy and Outer records. Will it be leaning more towards a UK sound off the back of Pressure. 

Alfie: Definitely. There’s a lot of really cool straight-up garage or Garage-influenced stuff going on. There’s a nice little crew of people doing that stuff. Labels like time are now which are part of Shall not Fade and Instinct.

So it’s mainly new artists making that style of music, not so much the original artists?

Alfie: Mostly, we still play some old Garage records. 

Nick: Garage is quite an old sound now, so you want to play some of the old records to educate people that didn’t get to enjoy them the first time around, but equally, you don’t want to just turn the whole thing nostalgic. There’s loads of new stuff going round, which is pretty good. It’s about finding that balance between the old and the new and keeping it interesting. 

While Garage is big in London, it’s not always recognised in other parts of the world. In your travels as DJ’s have found it is easy to translate those UK sounds, or do you find yourselves having to adapt?

Nick: You have to adapt for sure. In Germany, for example, they are not as keen on stuff that’s not as straight up four to the floor. And in America they are quite open, but if you play something that is Disco influenced, sometimes they really hate it. 

Alfie: It’s different in the States, since when we first started (playing there), they didn’t want anything too experimental, whereas now it’s been very open crowds. We’re playing Garage, which is very specific UK stuff, and the kind of stuff that would maybe not have worked that well before, but it seemed to go down really well on the last tour there. Each club or festival is different. 

I’ll find my place: An interview with Move D

We talked to Move D about his prolific career as a DJ, producer and record label owner through various stages of electronic music. In an extensive interview we cover highlight from the early nineties through his revival and his latest Pandemix Live Jams series ahead of his appearance at Skranglejul.

David Moufang (Move D) hadn’t owned a pair of turntables at any given period of his career until the pandemic. The 56 year old DJ, producer and record label owner has avoided the traditional DJ setup at home, but like so many other things that changed with the pandemic. With the prospect of long periods of isolation at home, he thought “I’ll get a pair of Technics.” David’s intention turned to streaming some mixes via social media channels during the down time, but he soon started “running into problems”. Over-eager bots would shut down his streams with even some of his own work causing copyright conflicts. 

It was unsustainable, and David found he had to change his approach. He would need to circumvent these issues and the only way he’d be able to do that was with unreleased, original material. He packed away his new, pristine pair of decks and brought out his well-worn synthesisers and drum machines. He would “play new stuff with the gear,” making only original tracks in the moment for a virtual audience tuning in from home. He called the series Pan de mix

As the pandemic eased out of lockdown and the world started getting back on its feet, David was left with all this music on his harddrive and “offers from other labels” started to follow. Doing some minor post production on what was essentially the unaltered live performances, some of the tracks found their way onto Smallville Records with the rest of the music consolidated as a series of releases and eventually an album called the Pandemix Live Jams.

Pandemix Live Jams is just the latest in a prolific career as a recording artist and DJ, one that has its origins at the beginning of DJ culture and has continued to evolve and contribute to the contemporary history of electronic music. The record finds itself at the revival of he and Jonas Grossman’s legendary Source Records and its sound can be seen as a direct descendent of the sounds and spirits that influenced the start of the label. There’s the warmth of analogue equipment and the imperfect touch of human improvisation ebbing through the entire record, much like it did on that first record he and Jonas released as Deep Space Network almost thirty years ago.

Coincidental encounters

“That’s why they are called jams, because they really are jams,” says David from a telephone call via his hometown Heidelberg in Germany. He’s called Heidelberg home throughout his entire career, and it’s in the small town that he started his career as a DJ back in the eighties. 

“Life is just a stream of coincidences,” he ponders when thinking back to that time. “Born with the Beatles,” David moved through “Led Zeppelin and probably AC/DC,” during his formative years while he was learning to play the guitar. At that time, Heidelberg was the headquarters for NATO, and with “30 000 American soldiers in a town of 150 000” American music was in the air… literally. As a youth he could tune into the American radio station broadcast from the GI barracks, exposing David to a wider range of music than local stations would offer. The Americans “played stuff you wouldn’t hear on German radio like Parliament and Hendrix’s voodoo child” and it piqued a latent interest in music that eventually went beyond rock music. 

As he was coming of age, he started frequenting one of the “mainstream” discotheques in town where two DJs with “American GI backgrounds” would hold court over a record collection seven days a week. ”There was a shelf behind the DJ,” remembers David. “The club owner would give the oldest, most respectable DJ in the club (some) money to go record shopping and those records would go into the shelf.” While most of the crowd was dancing and having a good time, David was “watching, kind of nerding” and taking notes on where all the “good records” were kept. 

On an occasion when one of the American DJs got into “some trouble” with the local police and the discotheque was left in a crunch without a DJ, David stepped up to challenge. He persuaded the owner with; “I come here regularly and I know where the good records are.” That was all it took and David was inducted into the resident DJ lineup. 

By that point David had already been into electronic music for a while. An initial interest came “when the technology arrived” around “1976, the year before the prophet 5 (synthesiser) was invented.” Not being able to afford a piano, his mother bought him the more affordable (then not so much now) electric Fender Rhodes piano, planting a seed for manipulating electronic sounds. It evolved from there with the first “major milestone”, a Tascam four track cassette recorder, before Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” eventually saw David fall into a rabbit hole of machine music. “That was a very important track for me,” insists David, “it changed my life”. That track encouraged him to buy his first drum machine and started the decline in an interest in rock music altogether.

By 1985/ ‘86 he heard the first DJs beat mixing on trips to Italy, where clubs were  “spearheading” the evolution of the dance floor at that point. At his local discotheque however “beat mixing wasn’t really a thing.“ It was more of a “mainstream place” where you “would hear Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder every other night when it was somebody’s birthday.” David stepped into this role on a pair of rudimentary belt driven turntables, spending a couple of hours every night practising beat mixing, before the audience would inevitably flock in and start requesting the last chart hits. 

He never considered it a job, thinking this was going to be a mere stepping stone between school and university, “like a bartender or waitress.” His first inkling that this could be a job, was meeting a friend of a girlfriend who had been “Djing for 12 years,” and even then it seemed incredulous. “To me this was shocking!” snickers David. “I was full of pity for this guy.” The money David had been earning at the discotheque “was barely enough to pay rent” and he “couldn’t” even “afford to buy vinyl with my money,” but the fiscal focus took a back seat to the music he was playing and starting to make in his free time.

Rock n Roll is dead

While playing in bands, he had had access to a studio and like so many of David’s stories, it was mere coincidence that he started making music for “short movies or advertisements” out of that studio during this time. It put him on a “path moving away from the band” and towards early prototype Techno without even knowing it. “I was making Techno in a way like all electronic music, without thinking this could actually be released. I hadn’t heard my first house record yet.”

“It was all thanks to D-Man really, who started putting on Acid House parties around ‘88” in town, insists David about his introduction to this music. The DJ, who is a little older than David, brought characters like Ron Trent and DJ Pierre to Mannheim, a town just outside Heidelberg, with people from as far afield as France and Switzerland frequenting what would become a scene. David ”got to hear these amazing DJs” and it had “a huge influence” on his own nascent prospects as a DJ and producer, but it wouldn’t be until he met Jonas Grossmann that these efforts started to take shape as Deep Space Network and Source Records by the early nineties. 

Source Records and the scene that he and Jonas created around the label which included KM20 studios and the local “hangout” Milk! has remained a touchstone on the history of Techno and House music. Aphex Twin would stay with David when he was in town, while the KM20 studio would feed into Milk and become legends in their own right. Milk! was an ambient café, “a kind of hippy place” according to David, where you could get your coffee served by Jonas or David while being served the latest creations coming out of KM20. We were playing this music and we were the people making this music” and this “really drew people.”

Move D

Those rose tinted glasses aren’t looking so rosy

David rambles through these pivotal moments in his career in a matter-of-fact tone that places all the emphasis on characters like D-Man – and later in the conversation, Lakuti – without much concern for his own incredible achievements. He almost brushes over his entire career in the nineties summing up a decade in a few concise sentences before moving on again to the present.

“It’s easy to be nostalgic,” he says before warning, “but I wouldn’t over-idealise it.” Yes, it was originally “ grounded in this freakish thing,” where impromptu parties would pop up in abandoned buildings and the woods,” but it was also the dawn of Techno’s commercial success and with that came pitfalls. 

Deep Space Network and Source records would be part of this momentum too. “People were ripping the albums out of our hands,” says David without hyperbolic inflection, while he and Jonas were being flown to London for NME photoshoots. With Source Records they had found a niche as Techno was booming with the advent of what David defines as “listening Techno,” but we would probably call ambient today. There was certainly something in the air at that point which coincided nicely with things like Warp’s Artificial Intelligence releases, and they all soon found they had become the darlings of the media. But trends moved quickly, and in “one year Aphex twin was god and two years later the headlines were ambient is dead.”

Source Records remained prominent during this period, with classic records like Roman Flügel’s “Ro70” and Move-D’s “Kunststoff” entering the label’s catalogue, and even during ambient’s death spiral they were still introducing new and exciting artists like Lowtec to the world. 

Throughout all this time however David’s career as a DJ remained suspiciously low key. “It didn’t really matter in the nineties,” he says of Djing. “It was all local or German clubs.” He was “doing ok, making money” from selling records, and the label would sustain him as he became a stay-at-home dad. He would play “Techno parties,” both as a DJ and a live performer, and while there “was extra money” in that at a time when the fees were particularly high, he never considered it a career. 

And by the “end of the nineties the introduction of the cd burner and then Napster was finally it for the prospect of making money as a label” too. “Winding down the label” during this period for the first time,  “less and less gigs,” started coming David’s way and in that unique catch 22 for any DJ, if “you’re not active, you’re forgotten in no time.” By the early 2000’s, David says; “my career was rock bottom. Nobody cared, neither for the records nor for the Djing. I was at a point, where I thought eventually I have to find myself a job.”

The job search never had materialised however.

Revival

“Again, it’s one of those lucky instances,” says David. With the global village shrinking in the shadow of the internet, David found fortune in the advent of social media. A friend had introduced him to MySpace and then suddenly, without much prompting, people from places as remote as the British midlands were reaching out. One of those people was Lerato Khathi, better known as Lakuti and synonymous today with her label Uzuri records. At that point she was still “putting on illegal warehouse parties in London” and invited David as a fan of Move D. 

“I didn’t even have a proper record bag,” remembers David who also recalls being “really nervous.” Playing after another DJ with a minimal set, the trepidation of following the stark sounds of his predecessor was getting closer. Luckily, the transition between DJs coincided with a power outage; a “ twenty minute break” and time for David to compose his thoughts while the crowd re-adjusted. It turned out to be a “good thing” and he was able to “reset the mood with cool Deep House.” It hit a nerve with an audience possibly somewhat fatigued from those minimal bleeps and “people lost their fucking minds.” It was pure kismet that it happened at a time that coincided with an era of Deep House’s own revival and in that scene Move D yet again became a vital proponent, bringing new audiences to this music and his own back-catalogue. 

He became a fixture on the scene, playing places like the much lauded invite-only Free Rotation festival, while releasing music again with labels like Workshop, Running Back and of course Uzuri knocking on his door. And while his working methods might have “been changing drastically” based on a curiosity that continues to go unsatisfied, there’s that consistency in the warm analogue sounds, and the imperfection in human improvisation that has remained consistent. It’s still there in Pandemix Live Jams finding a natural home in the 2nd phase of Source Records as an exclusive vehicle for his own music.

Move D remains a constant presence in the underground, and as a DJ he’s staked out a claim as one of the best. This is possibly his greatest claim. His ability to find some common ground with crowds, while playing on the dynamics of his own musical history has garnered a reputation as a DJ other DJs like to admire. 

I’ll still find my place

Today his sets can go “from more broken beats” to “Chicago acid” with a focus on “mixing styles” through his set. It’s what he admires most in other DJs too –  “That was my biggest complaint about the early 2000’s; I could be there for two hours and it was like they were playing one track.” And he’s not eclectic for the sake of casting a wide net, it comes down to his own personal tastes. ”Do what you believe is right and don’t try to please because you think you know that’s what people expect from you,” he says in some grand philosophical gesture. 

David doesn’t often talk in platitudes like this, so when he does, you have to stop and take a beat to let it sink in. There’s a wisdom there that only experience can bring, and he carries that over to a sincere commitment to the music he plays. “I want to entertain them, but I have to like it as well,” he adds as he considers the statement. We’re a long way from the eighties where a person like David “would get into a fucking fight about music,” and today he’s eager to share the optimism of an interconnected world where people are less stubborn.

He can see the positive aspects of being more “open-minded” about music, even if it might not be to his favour. He’s realistic that perhaps he’s not in that sweet spot of popularity like Source Records was in the 90’s or Deep House was in the early 2000’s, but “it’s ok” says David.” I’m aware my personal taste could be right and the pinnacle of what is hip and other times… they are far apart. Now we’re at a point where it’s medium far, but I’ll still find my place.” 

That place is enshrined in the history of electronic music today. 

Romjulsfestivalen 2022

Our annual Christmas celebration returns unfettered with a full lineup and some new concepts

After a couple of years of compromised Christmas celebrations we’re pleased to announce that our Romjulsfestivalen returns in full force, featuring international and local guests for the week-long Christmas celebration. Jaeger and Natt&Dag present Move D, Dusky and the newest Ostgut signee Fadi Mohem alongside our residents and a couple of new concepts between the 25th-30th of December.

Our stalwart concepts, Øyvind Morken’s Untzdag, Boogienetter, Skranglejazz and BigUP! take their places, while new concepts, Helt Texas and Flux join the lineup for the first year.

It kicks off with Øyvind Morken’s annual 1st day of Christmas foray, with the DJ celebrating an incredible year for his music, before moving on through Boogienetter and ending up at BigUP! Oslo’s Drum n Bass and Jungle crew are in the basement for this edition on a Friday no less, with a marathon DJ lineup that will make the foundations shake.

Ole HK presents Helt Texas on their usual Thursday spot with Dusky, Vibeke Bruff and Synk, after a Techno assault midway through the week with the Flux collective. After their last visit to the basement, Flux takeover both floors with newly inducted Ostgut resident, Fadi Mohem. Skranglejazz are back in their usually spot with House veteran Move D returning to Jaeger.

Tickets are already on sale via ticketco so make sure to grab a ticket to avoid the queue.

Premiere: Henrik Villard – Jordbær (BCR)

Henrik Villard pre-empts his latest release with an email claiming “Jordbær” and its two companions on his and BCR‘s next release, “Sveve” is a “slightly different style from me.” On the first listen it’s familiar alongside Villard’s efforts for the BCR label. Its deep groove carves trenches in the recesses of traditional House, while the artist’s effervescent touch for atmosphere remains at the fore of its appeal. Pads and synthesisers establish a heady firmament of textures, anchored in a low end rumble. A lysergic 303 bass-line emerges from the lower register, growing into the central motif alongside the determined groove.

It develops into fully formed song inspiring another listen and then another, and it’s at that point when you hear it. There is something different here. Whispers of noise stick to the atmosphere and the low bass takes on a menacing character. There’s something raw and visceral operating in the background behind the established  melodic ideas and pristine production touches.

“Jordbær” and the rest of “Sveve” finds Henrik Villard explore a new realm, something indefinable and far from obvious. It’s not exactly a new direction from the artist, but hints at some new terrain from an artist whose musical prowess has been established with records for the likes of labels like Mhost Likely and more recently for Tensnake’s True Romance. We’re excited to premiere “Jordbær” today ahead of its official release this Friday and caught up with Henrik to ask about the exact nature of this new direction. We and ended up going deep into his production processes and the nature of BCR in this lengthy email exchange.

Henrik talks about the BCR nights at Jaeger; his “sound”; and how Sveve came together in this Q&A. “Jordbær” and “Sveve” is out this Friday via Bandcamp and catch Henrik Villard and BCR in the booth in December.

Hey Henrik. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. You introduced this record via email as “slightly different style from me.” What makes it different?

Hey Mischa! Thanks for having me. Yes, I did. The whole EP, Sveve, is a product of some intense hardware-jams, which is a shift from my usual in-the-box process of making music to being more hardware oriented. The limitations imposed by hardware made me realise that I need to approach the music making-process in a new way – which led to me being more open minded in terms of the ideas that came from jamming on the synths.

A typical Henrik Villard-sound might be a lot more lofi and not necessarily something you’d hear in a club setting, while the tracks on Sveve still have a slight lofi-feel to them (especially on the pads, in my view) these are tracks I’ve played out in a club setting.

What influenced the changes in your approach this time around?

It’s kind of two fold. I’ve felt for some time that I’ve been stagnating with the music I made, and sometimes it was not even that fun to make (a bit frustrating). So I decided to experiment more and try different approaches to making music – to make it fun again!

You’ve released quite a bit on other labels in the past. Was there any intention to make something for BCR this time and what changes when you do something for our own label?

Yes, I recently released an EP on Tensnake’s label “True Romance”, which I’m very proud of. The intention to make a release for BCR kind of grew at the same time as I started to experiment. And I knew that no matter what, I’d have Anders and Perkules’ blessing to express myself. I feel a lot more confident to experiment (even though it’s not really wild experimenting) with my tracks when the intention is to release it on BCR. It feels like I’m much more free to do what I want.

What in your opinion is the defining Henrik Villard sound in records like these?

To be honest I have a hard time pin-pointing what “my” sound is – maybe it’s in the way I imagine a baseline. To me, that’s been my main focus for a couple of years when I make music. I’ve let my TD-3 run hot on these tracks, and I like to think that how I process and automate it as it runs throughout the tracks is part of what makes up “my” sound for these tracks. Where does a certain element come in in the track? What kind of atmos/background sounds are used to “lift” the track? I think the three tracks are firmly rooted in a house-tradition, I use 909 and 707 drums and acid-lines, bass-motifs that are meant to be something that keeps the groove going throughout the track. This release really is an exercise in house-music as I’ve perceived it at the time.

You specifically chose “Jordbær” as the premiere. Why did you choose that track from this record?

I really like Jordbær cause the idea came together real quick. I just had an idea of what the track would be and mashed it out. It’s hard to pick favourites, but I think this track stands just a tad bit closer to my heart.

In what context would we usually find this record in one of your DJ sets?

I’ve played it out a lot. I think it works well to set the mood in a set, and I like to think that it has some sort of dubby-quality (especially The piano). Not really a peak track, but before and after, hehe.

The thing that strikes me first is the bass, that deep rumbling consistent underneath the track. Tell us a bit more about how this track started and took shape?

The track started with the rimshot rhythm that goes through most of the track, then came some more drums. Then I made a pad sound, and also “jammed out” a baseline. After that I tried out a couple of acid-lines until I got the one you can hear in the song.  

Any specific records that influenced this sound?

Genius of Times’ “Sunswell” and Qnete and Carmel’s “Vierfecta”. The “floatiness” of Sunswell and the static nature of the drums and rhythm on Vierfecta.

At its crux though it’s that acid refrain that comes in during the height of the track, breaking through the atmosphere. It’s more like a song than a track.  From where do you draw your ideas for arrangement and melodies?

Oh, I feel like I’m the least creative when it comes to arranging tracks. I usually work with 16-bar sections, and I work a lot with filters. So I usually introduce an element (a stab, vox, etc) in the start of a 16-bar section, and use the filter to fade it in. For melodies I love to make a sound on a synth, and while I’m turning knobs something (like a meloyi, a motif) usually just catches my ear.

At what point do you realise a track like this is good enough to find a spot on a record? 

That’s a tough one. Because when you make the track, you listen to it over and over again. And it can sometimes be a bit hard to judge whether a track is good or not. I think we all know the feeling of working on a track the whole day, and then when you listen to the same track the next day, it sounds like garbage/crappy/bad. In my case I go off the tracks (and ideas) that don’t sound bad the day after, and if I like the idea I’ll keep working on it. It is also very helpful to get input and feedback from Anders and Perkules.

BCR has now been fully inducted in the Jaeger roster. Tell me what you guys take away from your nights here and how it folds into what you do at the label? 

For me, our summer residency (Sundaze) helped me evolve my taste in electronic music, it really helped broaden my horizon. We’ve also talked about that through our nights at Jaeger we’ve learned a lot about crowds, DJing together, and I’ve learned a lot about what kind of tunes work out (or not). A key takeaway is that I’ve noticed when a crowd reacts to a song, I’ve tried to take the memory or the sense of the crowd with me when I make music.

From the stuff I’ve been hearing from Anders Hajem and Perkules coming via the label, it seems there’s a general progression towards that new plateau. And you saying there’s a slight difference in this record, suggests there’s some evolution there. Is that right?

I would very much agree that there’s a progression or evolution of our respective sounds. Over the last 12 months I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from tracks and ideas that Anders and Perkules have shown me. They have been a great source of inspiration, and I like to think that the same goes for them. So I think we are able to inspire each other to take things towards a new plateau. Also I’ve had a sense of need to do something new in my music, and tried my best to act on this. 

And where do you see that evolution taking BCR and your own music in the future?

I’d really like for this evolution in sound to take BCR to new heights, I’d love for our music to reach more people. The same goes for my own music. We’re planning some exciting things for BCR so keep an eye out for updates.

Watch Digitizer (live) from the Jaeger Mix

Stream the video from the last jaeger mix session featuring Digitizer and his machines live from the sauna.

During the last Jaeger mix Electro descended on the backyard, curated by Elektro Romantik’s Robotic (Robin Crafoord) and featuring Digitizer. The Oslo native brought his machines to the sauna, to take an intrepid trip through some of his recorded works. Besides recording the live set in audio, we also trained a couple of camera’s on the artist for a video that you can stream now.

Read the interview with artist and find an audio only version of the mix here. Digitizer talks extensively about his history, electro and why he enjoys the live format.

The Jaeger Mix returns in December with Keecen and Olefonken.

Keep ’em Dancing with Boris Dlugosch

“My main goal when I play… I want everybody to have a good time.” Boris Dlugosch speaks from experience. “When you’ve played music for thirty years” like Boris “and you’ve played all kinds of styles of music,” all sense of ego and hubris falls away and what’s left is the music and dance floor. 

Boris Dlugosch has made a notable career for himself built on this foundation. He was there at the start, back in the eighties at the legendary Hamburg club called FRONT. He rode a wave of success as a producer concurrently with House music’s rise to fame in the early nineties with people like Masters at Work clambering for his work. He introduced Mousse T. to the world during a time when the track “Horny” propelled that artist to the mainstream. He found notoriety as a remix artist, adapting some of the world’s most revered pop songs for the club, and throughout it all he remained a steadfast figure in the booth. He continues to be a touchstone for some of the world’s recognised DJs like Gerd Janson and our very own Olle Abstract, and today it his profile as a DJ is encapsulated in something like mythic lore.

Boris Dlugosch plays LYD this Saturday

He started his career during a time when New Beat, House and Synth pop lived in  harmonious synchrony in the mix. He was an earlier adopter of Chicago- then New York  House. He played the latest from the French electro scene when acts like Daft Punk were still in their infancy and continued to adapt and evolve through the ages. Today he can be found playing at places like the Golden Pudel at home and while he still releases original music, most notably through Running Back, he remains a DJ’s DJ. His latest record, courtesy of Running Back stands testament to that. Unlike 2017’s Traveller on the same label, this is not an original work, but the second instalment of a compilation series, celebrating the music he played at FRONT. It’s the place where Boris had made his debut and retained a residency until closing in the mid nineties and probably the first highlight on his illustrious career. It’s here where I want to start our conversation when I call him up for an interview. 


The compilation ties a red thread from his beginnings up to the present day, and as reflection of a time and place, it’s significant, but coming out in a contemporary backdrop it stands on its own with its raw inhibited energy and indefinable sonic aesthetic, it captures a certain spirit through this timeless music. But before we get there, we have to acknowledge the city from which it was born. 

Boris Dlugosch is in Hamburg when I call him up; a city with a lot of music history especially club music. With artists like Helene Hauff, Boys Noize, Digitalism and Koze also hailing from the German city, there’s certainly a legacy there that’s hard to pin down. If ”the Beatles coming to Hamburg” has anything to do “with the first House club or the record store where Boys Noize and Jens (Digitalism) worked,” Boris can’t say, but he recognises “certain things bring other things” and there has certainly been a hive of musical activity ever since, and perhaps even before the fab four (then five) set foot on Hamburg soil. 

Unsurprisingly, Boris too “was always into music.” He had a keen ear and “picked up a lot of new music from the radio.” He played drums in a heavy metal band amongst other things and listened to everything from rock to electronic music. It was, like so many other things in Boris’ career, “a coincidence” that led him to the decks initially and eventually on a path to becoming a FRONT resident. 

The story goes that he had been working as a checkout bagger at a local grocery store and the till operator at the time was the mother of the cover guy at FRONT. On one fortuitous afternoon “he invited” Boris “to his house” where Boris found the lure of “two turntables… and a huge record collection” all too appealing. Boris realised immediately, “I want to do this” and as luck would have it (again), his new friend was looking to part with  setups.

Boris inherited a “pair of rubbish turntables and a mixer” and started learning the craft of the DJ. He was still “too young” and looked even younger, to enter FRONT at that point and had to “wait a year.” Meanwhile he already “had the tapes from ‘83 and ‘84 from the club,” and he could hone his craft through what he heard on those tapes. Boris had “always had an ear for music” and seemed to understand the mechanics of DJing intuitively. Apart from being able to distinguish the music being played, he also started to grasp what the DJ was actually doing. At FRONT particularly, “it wasn’t about the show or how good you were,” he remembers, “but more about the selection of music.” Eventually he put a mixtape together with that focus, which landed in the hands of the owners at FRONT. His selections had particularly resonated with the forces behind the club and by 1985 he joined Klaus Stockhausen as one of the club’s only two residents. 

“I was about 16 when I first went to the club.” Boris remembers a completely “different universe” when he walked through the doors for the first time. It was a largely gay crowd wearing “a lot of leather” with “all kinds of weird people” in the mix. Pictures from the time show a dance floor of men in various stages of undress, and by all accounts it was not about what you wore at FRONT, but by what you didn’t wear. The leather, the moustaches, the marble-like physiques, and even the name, all exuded masculinity, but what struck Boris “the most was the music.” In a matter of a few visits. He had become “totally hooked.” Boris “had been to two or three other clubs before, but nothing like this.” 

“The music was 80’s, high energy, some disco and pop music.” Klaus Stockhausen played 12” versions of familiar tracks “being played on the radio,” remixed by the likes of Shep Pettibone and reconstituted for the dance floor. The DJ booth was nothing but a “box,” obscured by “dark windows,” where the DJ or crowd could only distinguish silhouettes on the other side. It was all “part of the mystery” of the place, but it was also a time when the “DJ wasn’t such a big thing.” People didn’t come to see a DJ, they came to hear the music and at FRONT the selection of music was in a class all on its own.

By the time Boris stepped into the booth at FRONT in ’85, the “first House music records from Chicago came in.” It ”sounded different from anything we heard before” and Boris’ musical ear gravitated to it. “I was always into electronic music and weird sounds” considers Boris. “I was also into melodies and vocals and House had all of that. It had soul and Funk, but at the same time it was something completely new, from another planet.” These records would be part of a “great mixture” of sounds that would include everything from those early pop records, Belgium New Beat and eventually the sounds of Acid coming via the UK. 

Literally hundreds of mixtapes exist online from FRONT during that time, and skimming through them is a window into a long lost forgotten world, where some things are instantly familiar or at least accessible and every track permeates with an infectious groove. “Maybe listening to the mixtapes today,”  considers Boris, you might feel like the DJ is “only playing the hits,” but back then you only “pulled out the best and strongest records.” There was “no ego, no showing off” from the DJ according to Boris –  how could there be you could barely see the DJ – and everything the DJ played or did was in order to “keep ‘em dancing.”  

For ten years this was Boris Dlugosch’s only objective as a resident at FRONT. Together with Klaus Stockhausen, they had created their “own little Paradise Garage,” but they were still an anomaly. At the time Boris “was probably picking the same records as David Morales or Frankie Knuckles,” but without any knowledge of these DJs, it was pure coincidence. He had no reference point, or mixtapes to influence these decisions. “The good thing about back in the day is that you didn’t know about anything else,” remembers Boris. “Now you think the epicentre of the music is London and New York,” explains Boris, “but all over Europe there were little tiny clubs all playing the same music and had the same vibe going.” In Hamburg especially, they were their “own little island,” isolated even from the rest of Germany who had largely been focussed on the sounds of Trance and Techno at the forefront. House music was still largely unknown, but people like a young Gerd Janson would flock to FRONT to hear this new unusual music. 

As the nineties rolled in and House music’s popularity grew in a world that became more connected, Boris too was swept up in the furore around the genre. The music he had been playing for years at FRONT had finally reached an international audience, and where before in Hamburg, they had very little connection beyond the city, suddenly they were part of a global phenomenon, thanks to the Americans.  

By that stage Boris Dlugosch had started remixing and editing his own records. As a DJ “you start thinking this record could sound better,” and with more “access to studios and gear” he developed these skills while still working the floor at FRONT. The “big breakthrough” came when he stumbled across a record at his local record store. “It sounded poppy, there was something there,” he remembers today. There was a phone number on the record – yes, people put their phone numbers on dance records back then – and he called up the artist. That artist turned out to be a nascent Mousse T. Boris made the journey down to Hanover, to a big studio complex, where he met with the young artist and they “immediately clicked and started producing together.” Adopting the pseudonym BOOM! they released “Keep Pushing.” in 1996. 

Boris had already started touring as a DJ, mostly in Germany alongside visiting American dignitaries like Todd Terry, which led to invitations to industry events like the Miami music conference. It was in Miami, purely by “coincidence” yet again that the new record found their way into some influential record bags. Stuttering vocals by Inaya Day sit alongside striped percussive work with gritty synthesisers pulsing through the mix. It had that immediate crossover appeal and the industry responded in kind. Faxes from the likes of Tony Humphries started coming through praising the track, and the record was eventually licensed to Louis Vega and Kenny Dope’s Master’s at Work label. 

It was an “absolutely crazy” time for Boris as “things came together.” His ear for a melody, his intuitive sense of rhythm and his experience of the dance floor culminated in a style of House music that was primed for the commercial market, but it never really came to fruition for Boris like it did for Mousse T. While his colleague and production partner found success with his track “Horny,” Boris’ efforts remained largely relegated to the underground. Even though Boris Dlugosch was on the A-side on the original “Horny” promo release with “Live Your Life Your Way” – a track with as much merit as its B-Side counterpart – it was the Mousse T. original that garnered most of the attention (it’s controversial title for the time probably influencing it) leaving at least one Discogs user to ponder: “Quite why this little gem from Boris Dlugosch never saw a commercial outing remains a mystery.”

Boris Dlugosch

The music industry is a cruel mistress and Boris Dlugosch, whether unlucky or overlooked, never saw the mainstream successes that many of the people he worked with enjoyed. “After a couple of years, you are not getting your royalty statements and you’re not getting paid and these guys have Maseratis and Porsches,” you can’t help but question the nature of the industry. While people like Todd Terry were getting well “40 000” for remixes on the same records that Boris were doing for free, and royalty cheques from the success of “Keep Pushing” never found his pocket, Boris remained seemingly content in his own success. Talking to him today, there is no sense of anger, frustration or regret. “In Germany, we were still the outsider because Techno was big and our music was still in small clubs,” he insists. Even while he would often hear his tracks on the radio in places like Ibiza and Italy during the height House music’s success, it seems Boris Dlugosch prefers to exist, in the small clubs that thrive in the underground.

He still prefers to be considered more of “ a DJ than a producer” and rarely plays out his own music, with one of the few exceptions being his last EP of original music on Running Back. “That’s the last track that I really loved that I did.” He is more focussed playing at places like the Golden Pudel in Hamburg and as a DJ he’s remained a fixture at places like these throughout different phases of club culture and club music, adapting with each new zeitgeist.

During his days at FRONT, at a time “when the music continued to get harder,” he changed direction literally overnight. “From one weekend to the other I switched over to playing only New York underground music.“ The same happened again in 1999 and 2000 when, at a time when House music was on MTV and entrenched on the radio, he decided to focus on the French Electro sound at the forefront of a new scene. “I was just bored,” remembers Boris of that time. “Hearing a mixtape by 2 many DJs,” he found music that played on nostalgic feelings, and yet remained contemporary. “They (2 Many DJs) were mixing all this music I loved from childhood (rock music) together with club music,” and again  Boris found a voice in that sound too. 

Throughout he’s remained a relevant figure on the scene, and still plays all over Germany, perhaps only taking a break during the pandemic. Respected by the underground, Boris Dlugosch has remained a significant DJ, and there’s few working in the DJ and clubbing scene today that haven’t been in awe of his prowess in the booth at one time or another. His days at FRONT is enshrined in club music history, reflected yet again in this Running Back series, and as we as a clubbing industry and community continue to move away from those early underground roots into commercial avenues, those times still echo with the raw and inhibited emotions that is at the core of club music for any given epoch. Few embody that spirit and that attitude to a dance floor quite like Boris Dlugosch. 

Chop Chop: An interview with Glitter 55

The tempo in Jaeger’s basement is creeping up to that 150BPM mark. It’s not even midnight yet, but people are literally bouncing off the walls as they push past the wall of bass to get a glimpse of the DJ. I’ve become accustomed to hearing these excessive tempos  recently, but there is something unique to this particular experience. Where those tempos usually exist for saccharine melodies inverted in some functionalist dystopia, there is something more enticing and esoteric about what I’m hearing at this moment. Exotic textures, heavily borrowed from African and Arab traditions, weave through monstrous electronic kick drums to make an intricate lattice of unique rhythm structures and ethereal melodies.

This is Glitter 55 in full effect. The Moroccan DJ has cultivated a unique sound as a DJ over the last 5 years as she consolidates music from the Arab World and Africa with the stark sound of western electronic music. “I play music from the UK and US – bass music mainly”, she confirms, “and I try to put some influences from home or from Africa in there.” Home is officially in Rabat, but Glitter 55 speaks in a melodious French accent, the Morocco inflections softened by years spent in France. She introduces herself as Manar and we sit down in the backyard to the sounds of House music playing in the background. She’s just finished her soundcheck, and I was lucky enough to get a private sonic glimpse for the night ahead.

Her sound unfolds like a collage of disparate influences of a global diaspora, deconstructed and re-assembled for the purpose of the dance floor. At heart of it all is her unique musical heritage. Taking elements of “percussion from local (Moroccan) music called Chaabi”,  “vocals from Raï” or drums from South Africa’s gqom artists like DJ Lag, Glitter 55 reconstitutes these pieces alongside those UK and US bass sounds that she finds via soundcloud and bandcamp. It lends a well-travelled aesthetic to musical constructions that would be familiar to any club goer, especially those that came out to hear her play for Oslo World on the night. It’s world music, not in its truncated form as a non-western music, but rather in its most obvious description. It’s music that truly represents the world, or at least more of it than just one region.

It’s a sound Glitter 55 seems to embody in personality more than just taste with very few references or similarities being drawn to other DJs or artists. In a mere five years she has created the type of artistic identity in a sound that usually takes a lifetime to master, starting with a passion for music and leading to Djing; her Frissa nights  (“It means chop chop, always in a hurry, and a big mess”) and soon the recorded format (“Hopefully it will be released next year”) consolidating all her early influences and contemporary electronic music. 

Growing up in Rabat, Morocco, Glitter 55 was exposed to music from all over the world from a young age. Her mother listened largely to “Egyptian music” while her father gravitated towards the “fusion” pop sounds of something like the Moroccan equivalent of “the beatles”. She also remembers her “uncle listened to a lot of French pop music” and she still admires pop music with everything from “Egyptian and Lebanese pop,” to “Dua Lipa” informing her tastes today. Hearing all these “different styles of music… growing up” instilled an early passion for music, leading to enrolling in the Royal Gendarmerie’s music conservatory at a very young age, where she studied “music theory and singing”. 

At 16 she moved to France, arriving at Amiens, before moving to “Lille to study cultural studies and then to Paris.” It was in Paris where she started working as “an agent in the music industry”. Taking care of Arabic artists like Tinariwen amongst other things, she was certainly busy in the scene, but had made no significant steps towards her own career as a DJ until later. If she was a precocious music talent it’s hard to know at this point, because she worked largely behind the scenes, but there was clearly a nascent talent when she took to the decks for the first time. 

“I had a friend who was promoting a party, and was doing everything during the party,” she recalls about her first furore into Djing. “He was having issues with a band, and he asked me to play some songs for 10 minutes. I was like, ‘no, I don’t know how to use this machine.’” It went from trepidation to excitement, but she quickly found an experience she “enjoyed a lot” and wanted to learn more. “Thanks to youtube” and “a lot of tutorials” she learnt the basics and started taking her first steps towards a DJ career. She took on the name Glitter 55 as an homage to her Grandma (55 representing the evil eye of local tradition) and her personal affection for glitter socks (which I hadn’t noticed she was wearing on the night) and set on a course to a career in Djing alongside her work in the industry.

Manar had not been a stranger to DJing and electronic music in Morocco however. Attending “some festivals” and “rave parties,” she encountered a sound that leaned to “Trance and psychedelic stuff and hard Techno,” but it wasn’t until she started DJing herself that she started to explore the vast expanse of her own musical influences. It’s “music from Morocco or Africa, mixed with music that I love and discovered in France,” she considers. 

Today she “can play hard Techno and Disco and other stuff,” interwoven with those Arabic and African influences. With few others exploring these eclectic dimensions from the booth today, she has been left largely to her own devices and has prospected the limits of her own formative tastes extensively through her sets and her radio show on Rinse FM.

A mere two years after making her debut as a DJ Glitter 55 was inducted in the Rinse FM family as a resident for their French station and soon thereafter started playing around Europe and further afield. She “was amazed” when the call from Rinse FM came so soon after picking up DJing, but she is certainly a unique entity on the Radio’s programming schedule today. Her show “Atay Time” sees her “invite the artists that I love” from “all over the world” retaining that obvious connection with her own roots as  guests like Lara Sarkissian and Jabes represent a vast global diaspora. 

Artists and DJs like these and Glitter 55 herself  have brought a distinctive Arab sound to these western contexts in what is beginning to feel more than just a moment for our scene. Ignoring for a moment that people like Acid Arab and Asian Dub Foundation have experimented with Arab and Eastern sounds in electronic club music for some time, artists like Glitter 55 are breathing a new life into the clubbing landscape, by bringing something unique and contemporary to fore. 

In Paris, she has found a scene that shares the ideology. “It’s not a specific place,” however, “it’s different venues and promoted by collectives, who get people from all across the Arab world.” It’s “represented by artists from Africa living in Paris,” people like ”Deena Abdelwahed from Tunisia” but it’s not merely contained in Paris either. It’s also “in Amsterdam, where there’s a lot of parties being promoted by people from the Arab world.” 

The sound has reached Oslo too on occasion, with the likes of Sama AbdulHadi and Omar Soleymann making visits to Norway in the recent past and it certainly has captured an audience here too as we witnessed from the turn out for Glitter 55 and Acid Arab for the Oslo World event. 

Even within that wider appreciation for Arab and African sounds within a western musical dialect, Glitter 55 remains different. Her Chaabi influence which is “more about the  melody and the drums, the rhythmic structures of the sound” make for interesting bedfellows with the bass heavy rhythms of gqom and the blank slate that Techno and Bass music provides for these sounds as a platform. “You can mix the two quite easily,” says Manar “with the rhythmic structure” finding an interesting sympathy between genres like “bass music” and the very same “Egyptian music” she grew up listening to as a child. It’s music that resonates with western audiences as well their African and Arab counterparts, with the only difference being that “people sing along”  to the music back home.

People might not be singing along to the music at Jaeger on the night, but regardless, it’s made an indelible mark on the crowd as the 150 beats per minute subsides into quiet before a cheer erupts in the quiet. 

Charting a new trajectory with Interstellar Funk

Sitting down with Dekmantel artist and DJ, Interstellar Funk ahead of a showcase at Jaeger to talk about the evolution of his sound as an artist and his trajectory into one of the most respected DJs on the circuit today.

Interstellar Funk (Olf van Elden) is an anomaly in our musical galaxy. His music, whether he’s indulging early influences of Detroit House and Chicago or stepping off the grid into new ambient realms, is incredibly hard to categorise and illusive in its appeal. There’s always something functional lurking in the background, with a sense of a tranquil melancholy delivered in bristling synth melodies and uninhibited rhythm sections. 

His records have found their way on labels that thrive and indulge that sonic aesthetic – labels like Rush Hour, L.I.E.S, Berceuse Heroique and Dekmantel – and as a DJ he’s expounded on that sound, cultivating a unique reputation amongst his peers and audience alike. His music has always been very “synth based” with a nod to the vintage sounds. “I always use old synths,” explains  Olf, “and it’s always based on little melodies, less sample based, less drum based.” 

Between his associations with Dekmantel; his earlier work at Rush Hour; and his various connections with the people behind Club11/Trouw/De School he is something of an Amsterdam institution in his own way. A regular fixture at the Dekmantel festival since its inception, Interstellar Funk is practically part of the crew there. He is one of the most-featured artists on the lineup, and when they are touring the Dekmantel festival around clubs around Europe, he is on the figurative tour bus.

It seems only apt that his debut LP comes via the Dutch label. After nearly a decade of 12” and EPs Interstellar Funk has finally made his debut on the long player format in 2022 with Into The Echo. The record, coming together during the pandemic, sees the artist channel the sound he’s cultivated across his previous records towards a softer, more organic sound, suited for the album package. 

Delving into his past experience at Rush Hour, the Amsterdam-based record store of some repute, where he started as an intern, Interstellar Funk charts a journey through those formative experiences digging through the record store’s shelves on this album according to earlier interviews. The result is an LP that surprises at times in the context of Interstellar Funk’s more club-orientated work and yet again defies categorisation. Into the Echo reflects on an introverted time for humanity in a way that only Interstellar Funk could, and while it moves away from the club, it hardly breaks all contact in the machine-heavy aesthetic of the artist. 

It’s something he is carrying through to his next record at least, a 12″ on his own label, created around the same time with his piano teacher and friend Loradeniz. “It sounds quite similar” to the album says Olf with the pair bonding over “same kind of music” and recording the record pretty fast during the same pandemic period as the album. It suggests an evolution in the artist’s sound and when we sat down to talk to him before his appearance for the Dekmantel showcase last Frædag at Jaeger it was one of the many questions we had lingering. 

 

Let’s start with the album. Why was this the right time for you to put out your debut LP?

I wasn’t really planning to do the album. I always wanted to make an album, but time-wise it was always a bit difficult, because I was playing a lot and I needed more time in the studio. I was supposed to release a 12” on Dekmantel in 2020 and then the pandemic started, and I pulled back the 12” because it was a bit more clubby, and it didn’t make sense. And then I was like: “I’m just gonna keep on working on the project and see where it goes.” 

So the tracks weren’t ready ahead of the album?

I had those four tracks ready, and I took those four tracks as the direction of the album. In the end only two tracks made it onto the album and the rest didn’t. It was more like now I have the time, and it was nice to have a project, because I needed something to work on. I just decided to try to make an album and see how it goes and this is what came out. 

Did you have an idea for the record like what you wanted it to sound like?

I had some inspiration and some ideas. Like with electronic albums, I always like it when it touches more genres and not only club stuff. With an album you can go deeper and different directions than with 12”. I took the freedom to go a bit further from the dance floor. 

That’s something I picked up from listening to it, it sounds very organic compared to the past 12’s you’ve released.

I think, because I had this in mind, and that I spent so much time in the studio, it probably changed my sound a little bit. It evolved into something.

Do you think it might make it into future records?

Yeah, I’m not only interested in club music, I like other stuff. The idea of making albums and doing whatever you like, that freedom you have, it’s really interesting.

My association with your music has always been strongly toward beat music with a dark, wavy sound. Are you stepping away from that sound?

The problem is people always compare you with something. If you play a few wave tracks, people suddenly think you’re a wave DJ, but I like it all. I was  always into Detroit, Techno and Chicago. I like really dark, experimental and I like wave a lot, but it’s not like I’m only focussing on those things. There is a lot of experimental ambient stuff I like, and maybe you can hear that on the album. 

Yes, I can certainly hear some of that ambient influence. I read somewhere that your time at Rush Hour influenced it too. How did the record store influence it?

I worked there for eight years and I discovered a lot of music there. When I started working there I was mainly listening to Detroit and Chicago, like Omar S and Theo Parrish. They also did a lot with Brazilian music and African music (at Rush Hour), so I learnt a lot about different genres there. You’re also surrounded by records and people that know a lot about music, so you definitely learn to appreciate other styles. Maybe more than when you’re only a DJ and focussing on club music. A little Disco and Italo, but a lot of Jazz, Brazilian and African music. 

When did you start working at Rush Hour?

I started there as an intern in 2012. I worked out of the office, mainly for the label.

How did you end up at Rush Hour?

I went to art school and I had to do an internship, and my direction in art school was in music. I was already going (to Rush Hour) to buy records and stuff, and my dream was always to work there. 

And this was before you started DJing?

I was already buying records. 

I read about your brother being involved in club 11 (predecessor to Trouw and De School). Was that your initial introduction into clubbing and Djing?

Yes, club 11 was a really good club and they did loads of cool parties there. I always went there with my dad to support his (Jorn van Elden) parties. 

How old were you at that point? 

15 or 16. Because my brother was doing the parties it was fine (to get in). I don’t think they were that strict. 

And your dad would go with you?

Just to support. He still comes to parties now and then, he was at the (last) Dekmantel festival. 

Does he have an interest in this music?

He’s more interested in what I do. Just a proud dad, standing in front. 

What kind of music was he listening to when you guys were kids?  

I don’t think he was interested in music at all. They were listening to music, but it wasn’t like I grew up in a musical family or something. 

I guess, because club culture has been so ingrained in Dutch culture, that it’s not unusual for the older generation to go to club nights or music festivals.

Yeah, maybe it’s more accepted, that’s true, but my Dad was an (athlete) so he wasn’t drinking or doing any drugs. He wasn’t into club music at all when he was younger. Maybe people that grew up in the eighties, they got into club music, but my dad is a little older. In the 70’s you didn’t really have that. 

So, since you weren’t really into that music and didn’t grow up in a musical family or anything, what drew you to club music initially?

I just liked the parties and the festivals. It was just a new world opening up. I wasn’t necessarily interested, but I did like the music. It was either really heavy Techno like DJ Rush or it was minimal like the Villalobos stuff. I liked it all and just partying. People showed up at afterparties and we had a turntable; we had one Technics and one shitty turntable and people just started to learn how to mix.

You came up at the same time as Dekmantel and I remember at that point Detroit House was huge in Amsterdam. Was that the stuff you started buying?

When I started going to Amsterdam, that’s when Dekmantel started going with their own parties, and that period from minimal shifted to Detroit and Disco. We saw Theo Parrish for the first time; it was a really interesting period. My first records were really shitty, but I remember buying the first 3 chairs double LP (Moodymann, Marcellus Pittman, Rick Wilhite, Theo Parrish), and I still have that record. I was also a huge fan of Omar S and I’m still a huge fan. 

At what point do you go from Detroit House and start digging further into other genres?

I don’t know. I think you find a new genre, and you go deeper and you start buying and playing those records. I also used to buy a lot of Disco, because I saw Theo Parrish playing it, but I figured out maybe it wasn’t really my thing.

Were you making music throughout  all of this?

No, I started later. 

What was the catalyst for you to start making music?

I had a group of friends and one of the guys, Deniro used to have a lot of gear, an 808 and  909 – all the cool stuff.  Because of him, I collected money for my birthday and bought a Juno 60 (synthesiser). I always tried to make music on Ableton (computer software), but I couldn’t’ really figure it out, it was too complicated for me. I got a Juno 60 and a 707 (drum machine).

And then the debt starts… 

(laughs) It was definitely  an addiction.

You started around the same time that Dekmantel started. Did you always have a close relationship with them?

Amsterdam is pretty small and back then the scene was even smaller. There were a few parties. You had the Rush Hour that was pretty big, and then you had a party every Thursday at this club, everyone used to go. They (Dekmantel) used to play there and they had their own party in a small club in Amsterdam. It was a dirty place, mirrors on the walls and a dancing pole in the middle. It was a trashy, shitty place, but in a cool way.

Because the weekends were really long; you would go out on Thursday, then you go to an afterparty and thgo out on Friday. You hang out with the same people for hours and days, and you build up friendships quite fast. 

You’re probably one of the most frequent return guests to the festival. 

By now I might be. 

So doing the record for Dekamntel must solidify something?

I already had a few tracks on compilations (with Dekmantel). It was just a natural relationship, and it’s always nice to work with somebody you can trust and that you know really well. 

Getting back to your sound, do you think it marks a new chapter in your sound as an artist?

I think your sound always changes. If you look back to legendary producers, their sound always changes. If I listen back to my first record, it’s not something I would play now, but I also don’t hate it. It’s a lesson you keep learning. Your next release should always be better.

Country girl: A Q&A with Kristin Velvet

Imagine a line-up including Kerri Chandler, Honey Dijon and Carl Craig, all on the same night. Even in our wildest dreams at Jaeger, we’ve only managed to showcase these amazing talents one at a time. So, consider the triptych of DJ legends, with Kerri Chandler being the opener! Now imagine this is your introduction to a nightclub.

This was the case for Kristin Velvet when she first set foot in Watergate. It’s no surprise she immediately fell in love with the place. Today, that introduction has blossomed into a residency, where she’ll regularly feature on Watergate lineups and often alongside legends of that ilk.  

Kristin Velvet is a DJ, producer and label owner with some well-traveled credentials. From her origins in rural Australia, her start as a DJ in Tokyo, to playing in London, and her eventual relocation to Berlin, Kristin Velvet has channeled an extensive musical experience through what she does as a DJ, a producer and record label head.

Taking care of the daily activities at Arms and Legs, a label she runs alongside founders Daniel Steinberg and Nils Ohrmann, Kristin Velvet has carved out an incredible career, going from the “euphoric” House of her youth to playing groove-focussed House for peak time, often featuring mostly music from her label. She is a frequent contributor to Arms & Legs too, making important contributions, like the P-Funk sampling, dancefloor monster “The undertaker” or the 90’s House delight that is “It’s a game”, when she is not working alongside legends like Felix Da Housecat or being remixed by others like Paul Johnson.  

It was in fact her daily activities as a label head that she got her foot, followed by some Arms and Legs, in the door at Watergate, making her debut with a special label showcase featuring none-other than Paul Johnson. That was in 2017 and now Kristin Velvet is an integral part of the Watergate roster, often representing them in visiting showcases. With the Berlin institution celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, she has secured another seat on the tour bus, and as she and Kid Simius make their way to Jaeger this Saturday, we sent over some urgent questions to Kristin.

She talks about her rural upbringing, how she found dance music, her time in Tokyo and her relationship with Watergate in this Q&A session ahead of her appearance at Jaeger this weekend.

Tickets via @ticketco

20 years of Watergate! That’s a momentous occasion. Do you remember how you became aware of the Berlin clubbing institution?

Momentous indeed! So around 2007, I was living in London, there was a lot of Berlin hype at the time. My friends from WetYourself played at Watergate and all our crew went over for it. I remember it clearly because I couldn’t go, but everyone was raving about how great Watergate was. I dreamed of going there one day. My heart still bursts when DJs from other countries play at Watergate and their pals all come to Berlin for the occasion, it’s a vibe. 

Why do you think its legacy has endured the way it has? 

It’s the team people who make the place, the culture, and the legacy. You can have the best venue, best location, the best sound system, and the best DJs but without a good solid team the club is not going to work, or maybe for a short while but not for 20 years! Shout outs to all the people working behind the scenes week in week out who bring these spaces we love so much into existence. 

Its reputation precedes it. It was the first kind of super club I was familiar with before I even came to Europe and I guess you might have had a similar experience coming from Australia. Why do you think it’s had such a far-reaching appeal?

Word of mouth. DJs and dancers from all over the world come to Berlin, have amazing experiences, and go back home and tell their mates. 

Arriving in Berlin, what was your first encounter with the club

To be honest I can’t remember my first encounter, those early Berlin clubbing years are a bit of a blur, but I do remember the first time Watergate left a deep impression on me; it was Jerome Sydenham’s 50th birthday. I arrived at the club just before it opened and Kerri Chandler was warming things up on the Waterfloor, then we headed up to the main floor where Honey Dijon was busting it out, followed by Carl Craig who played on of the best sets I’ve ever heard, then back downstairs to hear Dennis Ferrer in full flight. Everyone was on fire that night, Jerome had lots of his friends and family there, people were jumping on the mic, hugging in the DJ booth, it was such an amazing vibe. I was so inspired after that night I sent an email to the booker, which led to me eventually becoming a resident…. 

How did you end up becoming a resident there?

Around 2017 Paul Johnson did a remix for Daniel Steinberg on our label Arms & Legs, so I wrote to the booker at Watergate (after Jerome Sydenham’s 50th) to see if we could do an Arms & Legs label night together with Paul. The booker didn’t write back for 3 months or so, but then out of the blue and much to my delight, he did! It was such a huge thrill to hear Paul play. Shortly after that Eats Everything and Maya Jane Coles both booked me for their nights at Watergate, then we did another Arms & Legs label night together with Felix Da Housecat. At this point, I was playing at the club almost every month, so the agency invited me into the office for a coffee and asked if I wanted to join the agency. It happened very organically. 

You’re on the lineup often, and with a varied selection of guests. How do you approach each event and what remains central to it all when you play at Watergate?

Every time I get booked at Watergate it’s still a huge honor and not something I ever take for granted. I approach each event thinking about how I can give the ravers the best possible experience, so they leave the club with wonderful memories and big smiles. 

What’s the prevalent charm of playing at Watergate, and what do you think you can do there as a resident that you can’t really get away with at other places?

I think you can get away with whatever you want wherever you want if you do it with conviction! As a resident though it’s a privilege to be familiar with the sound system and the space which comes in handy for testing new unreleased tracks. 

How do you present that to a new audience when you do these kinds of Watergate tours?

I love doing the Watergate showcases because I genuinely adore all the other residents, we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company and I think the people in the club feel that. We differ quite a lot musically which is great, it makes for an interesting and varied night of music.

There’s also these other aspects to you… Kristin Velvet, the artist and the label head. How do all these things fold into what you do as a DJ?

It all works together – the music, the label and then of course the DJing. The majority of what I play in the club is our Arms & Legs releases. 

I’ve read that you grew up in rural Australia, and it was country music that first got you dancing, but it was your time in Sydney that introduced you to clubbing. What was the music that specifically bridged those two worlds for you?

The bridge was house music, Armand Van Helden, Ultra Nate, Soulseacher, Phats & Small, Mousse T, Black Legend, I had just started sneaking into clubs, it was euphoric feel-good music and very accessible even to a country girl like me.

I imagine like for most of us, it started on the dance floor. What eventually led to Djing?

I started DJing when I lived in Tokyo. I became friends with the people who were running club nights there, which led to me DJing and eventually doing my own events. It was a very inclusive community, everyone played at each other’s nights it was lots of fun.

What were you playing at the beginning and how did it evolve from there?

Back then in Tokyo it was very different, I played everything from The Rapture, Le Tigre and LCD Soundsystem to The B-52’s, Daft Punk, Violent Femmes and Whitney Houston. It wasn’t until I moved to London around 2006 that my tastes started to change. 

Tell me a bit more about Tokyo. I simply love the record- and music culture there. Did you pick up anything specific to your time there that has followed you as a DJ?

Tokyo blew my mind. I worked in Shimokitazawa which had incredible record stores, it was a long time ago though so I wouldn’t say musically there was anything that stayed with me from back then. 

From Australia to Tokyo and then Berlin, what was the thing in Berlin that set it all apart for you, that thing that makes it such a special place for nightlife and club-culture?

The history, the culture, the lack of rules and the long opening hours. 

Yes, in Berlin the nights are pretty long, compared to somewhere like Sydney or Oslo. How would  you adapt your sets, for these shorter nights?

I’ll just pack the bangers! Kidding… it depends on the set time, the crowd and on so many factors. 

This is a return visit to Jaeger. What did you pick up from the last one that will affect the way your set might go?

I’m so thrilled to be back, I had such a blast last time. Honestly one of my favorite DJ booths I’ve ever played in. This time I’ll use your incredible rotary mixer. The sound is so warm! 

And how will Watergate and that celebration hopefully be reflected in your mix? 

I have a track coming out on the Watergate 20 years compilation album which is set for release in November, so I’ll probably give that one a spin.

Primal frequencies with Kid Simius

Kid Simius stands out in the current electronic dance music landscape. Performing live in the type of context others would DJ and channelling a flair for the balearic through the stark minimalist textures of Berlin Kid Simius is an anomaly on an international scene. 

Kid Simius is José Antonio Garcia Soler. Born in Granada, Spain and residing in Berlin, Germany, he operates in the no-man’s-land between those very distinct worlds with music that travels from DJ Alfredo to Modelsektor on its own unique path. He’s been releasing records since 2012, mostly on his own Jirafa Records, but he’s been playing live longer still. 

Although his chosen moniker might allude to something primal, it’s only in the way it works alongside the cerebral. Known as something of a synth wizard in music industry circles, he’s performed on- and contributed to chart-topping success stories, and when he’s not behind a set of keys, he’s behind a set of decks. As Kid Simius he programmes “unorthodox beats” between  a fusion of electronic and organic sounds that move from the dance floor to a spotify playlist.

Stretching across his output, are individual pieces which can go from the dub-step infused noise of a track like “King of Rock n Roll” to a bubbling, cut-n-paste House EP like Chicken Mango. Likewise his albums have gone from the digital  surfer-rock of his first LP Wet Sounds to the galaxian Disco of his second LP Planet Of The Simius, all offering a different perspective from his vast musical lexicon. There is no musical genre or style that uniquely defines him and yet the fluid movement between his records are expertely honed into a distinct voice that emerges through his live performances.

From festival stages to cosy clubs, and even a toilet, Kid Simius’ live shows pack a punch, utilising a formidable array of synthesisers, drum machines and computers to deliver striking shows, both sonically and visually. 

As a resident of Berlin’s famous Watergate club and he has been installed in one of the elite clubbing institutions in the world, and as he and they make their way to Jaeger next week for the official Watergate 20 celebrations, we caught with José to find out more about his music and his live show. 

He talks about the year he spent in Oslo, his life at Watergate, his music, his live show and how he came to be where he is today in this extensive Q&A session. 

Hello José. I think the burning question is; What is your relationship with Watergate and what significance is there to 20 years of the club for you personally?

My relationship with Watergate started in 2005 when I saw a documentary about the Berlin scene called Berlin Digital in which the club was featured.

Then the first time I went to Berlin my German friends took me there and I had an amazing time. It was amazing to be 19 years old and after watching so many documentaries about electronic music in Berlin, listening to the label’s releases and suddenly being there and being able to experience it in first person was great.

Watergate is an incredible label, their compilations are legendary, the DJs, the club everything, and to be able to stay at that level for so many years shows what a great job these people do.

I joined Watergate when my agent Max joined the agency. From the first moment they have made me feel at home and are giving me a lot of support, they accept me as an artist just as I am and that shows that not only professionally but in the human aspect they are excellent people. 

It’s certainly one of those iconic venues today. What in your opinion makes it so special?

The two dance floors are amazing, the big one with the LEDs and the small one with the river views, it is a super nice place and incomparable with other clubs. Then the bookings they do in the club are very diverse, so I always find DJs that I like that I want to see, they are very focused on having a good balance between known people and being open for new talents.

You’re no stranger to Oslo either, I believe. Tell us a bit more about that? 

I lived in Oslo one year from 2007-2008 when I was studying psychology and I used to hand out Flyers and stick posters in the street for The Villa in exchange for a Guest List.

At the end of the year they let me perform in the small room, I still have photos of it, I enjoyed it so much. It was an amazing time and I got to see a lot of Great DJs at The Villa.

I remembered I contacted them via my space and sent a couple of sets and demos of my tracks. They replied that they had a dj from Barcelona playing next weekend and that he didn’t speak English very well and that if I wanted to have dinner with him before the show and take care of him a little bit during the night. So I started, I just wanted to be there and help out.

Kid Simius performing at Villa

Do any of those great DJs stick out in your mind now?

Yes of course, I saw Modeselektor, Diplo, DJ Koze local heroes like Ost & Kjex

So it be safe to say you have something of a home advantage when playing here. Do you think it will influence the way your live set will go?

Well it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Oslo so many people I had contact with no longer live there. I don’t know how it will influence my show to be honest, what I do know is that it will be a super special show for me and I will be super nervous and excited because Oslo and The Villa were extremely important in my development as an artist. The year I lived there was a super inspiring and very influential year for my future.

My neighbour at that time was from Berlin, we became friends and later through him I moved to Berlin. In Berlin he took care of me a lot and today he is not only one of my best friends but also my manager.We are super proud of the amazing things we have experienced in the last years and it all started in Oslo, in a place called Kringsjå.

You grew up in Granada, Spain. Can you tell us a bit about the area and the musical sounds of the region?

Granada is immense. It’s crazy for the things that have happened there. Many cultures have lived together for many thousands of years and that is what makes it a super attractive city.

That’s why artists like Leonard Cohen, Joe Strummer, Lou Reed or Patti Smith were fascinated by the city and its culture. 

Musically, although it has often lacked a lot of support from public organisations with respect to clubs, studios, rehearsal spaces or festivals, the amount of musicians and artists that coexist in it make it super special. There are always new bands, new artists, new collectives, new djs, it is a very young city. Musically it’s very eclectic, something between flamenco, indie rock, techno and break beat…hahahah

At what point did electronic music enter your life, and what were the bands/producers/DJs/genres that informed your earliest listening adventures through electronic music?

For me there were several key moments, to name one was my visit to the FIB in 2005, I think I was 17 years old and coming from a small town where not many bands came to play suddenly going to a festival like this marked me completely.

I always bought on cd, the compilations of that festival, when I got to the festival I told my friends, someday I will play here, my friends laughed but 10 years later I got it. Sometimes when they ask me about my musical influences I say, the line up of FIB 2005 is my musical influence.

To name some of the artists that played at that festival: Pan Sonic, Mouse on Mars, LCD Soundsystem, Ladytron, Underworld, Basement Jaxx, Milo Nick Cave, Oasis, Andrew Weatherall, Four Tet ….

How has Berlin informed you as an artist?

Berlin is a crazy city, things are happening all the time, the amount of new artists, new clubs etc. is incomparable with other cities, the freedom that exists is beastly and obviously to make electronic music there is no better city, also compared to other European capitals it is still not so expensive and that makes it a very comfortable place for artists.

The only bad thing for me coming from the south is the winter and that it gets dark very early but well you know that here in Oslo.

What significance does the name Kid Simius have?

The name came to me in less than a minute and I never thought it was going to be something serious. At the time of myspace me and my friends made an account as a collective and when we had to put the artistic names of each one, I was the youngest of all of us by far, so I was the kid and I have a lot of hair on my body and didn’t like the word “monkey” so I chose “simius” which is “monkey” in latin… and all of that in less than 30 seconds. That’s about it.

Back in 2012, you were involved in a song with some commercial success called Lila Wolken. What effect did that moment have on you as Kid Simius if any?

It’s complicated to measure the impact it had for the kid simius project since I wasn’t the main artist and only the composer, I guess the people in the scene and the industry knew who was involved in the song, but that’s all, I just kept my way.

It was, anyway a very nice experience in somehow, I was very young and I don’t know, suddenly you make a beat, you send it to some friends, they write a song, it comes out and suddenly it’s number one in the single charts, double platinum, you hear it on TV, on the radio, everywhere…and you think wtf 

It’s very different from anything you make today. When you reflect on it, how does it fit into the Kid Simius universe?

Well, to be honest, I’ve tried to do what I like at all times, I’m super eclectic and I don’t like to pigeonhole myself with anything. I always like to have fun in the studio and have a good time.

Sometimes I see my tracks as if they were photos of a certain moment in my life and they remind me of that time. Once I read something like “ if Yamaha can make pianos and motorbikes at the same time , I can make jazz, techno and grime, don’t label the music, let the music just be music”.

Would it be safe to assume that there was a shift in your approach/sound around your solo record, your LP “Planet of Simius,” and what inspired this new direction/evolution?

Yes well, I am constantly inspired by many things, especially moments, the beginnings of disco music, then house and techno are very beautiful moments in our recent history that have inspired me a lot.

Everyone no matter what colour they are, no matter what social status they have and no matter what clothes they have, all together on the same level dancing around the DJ.

The figure of the DJ surprising with new styles of music, mixing new things, Larry Levan Paradise Garage etc. etc. that inspired me a lot in that LP.

Also the idea of mixing different styles of music together was very attractive for me.

There’s been more of a balearic nature to your music since. Perhaps that’s just me inferring, although I did read an interview where you mentioned DJ Alfredo. How has that sound influenced your records and your live show?

Well , DJ Alfredo represents the romantic way of electronic music, eclecticism, all together we are one ,freedom & hedonism. He didn’t produce so much music but his legacy as a dj is crazy.He inspired so many people, he is The Velvet Underground of the djs. I had the opportunity to interview him on my radio show and he is one of a kind.

O really, we have to hear it. And about the live show… What is it about playing live that particularly appeals to you, and why have you chosen to present your music in that way?

It’s like a way I have to express myself, sometimes as a teenager or young adult you don’t think why you make things, you just do it and you do it because you need to do it, because you need to express yourself and I guess for me to play live is one of the best ways I have to express myself since I am a young adult.

Is it about recreating the sounds of records like Chicken Mango?

Yes

Does playing the music live factor into your creative process when you sit down to start recording and/or music?

Sometimes yes sometimes not, I try not to be functional when I am making music and not think if im playing live I should do like this or that. But sometimes it influences me. The beauty for me of making music is that every time is different, sometimes starting with the guitar, or with the keys, other times it is programming a beat, other times is sampling something…

Most of your releases come through your own label, Jirafa Records. How do you compartmentalise the aspects of running the label from the creative pursuits of making music?

Here I have to say that we practically don’t release other artists on the label, it’s almost only to get my own music out and we only work when there is a release, the rest of the time it’s on stand by.

On the other hand I have my friend and manager Chris, who I met in Oslo who takes care of the communication with the distributor, pitching for Spotify etc. I am not doing it alone. What was a bit more work was to set up everything , like publishing code for the label , Bandcamp account, Soundcloud, insta, Facebook etc but once you are set up it’s ok.

We also use the label as a platform for other artist to release their dj mixes // podcast …basically I upload the mixes to our platform and then play the mixes on my radio show I have monthly on the German fm radio where I had artists like Octo Octa, DJ Tennis, Ellen Allien, Cinthie or Sofia Kourtesis.

Then again there must be a sense of creative freedom that you don’t get from releasing on other labels?

Well, at the beginning to be honest it was because it was difficult for me to find a label to release my music, I don’t do music on demand, first the music. The thing is when you release on another label , you send some tracks you have done, they pick the tracks they like and that’s the release.

When you have your own label you have to make this decision, too. You have to select your tracks ,on one hand its freedom because you choose what you release, but on the other hand sometimes it gets tough to decide things on your own the whole time.

I’ve noticed there are a few things happening on the record front for you this year, and you’re playing live often. It seems it’s a busy period for you. What’s been the inspiration behind it and what has it again inspired?

I just love to do different things the whole time and stay busy. The live set is for me a kind of a challenge of how I should play electronic music live. There are no rules on how you should play electronic music live, that’s why the amount of possibilities or stuff to do is unlimited.

Is there anything you’re super excited about coming up in the near future?

Yes, I´m super excited about my show at Jaeger !!!! I got a release coming out on the “20 years Watergate” compilation and now I’m working on a EP with Rhode & Brown coming out next year probably.

Will we hear any of it during your live show at Jaeger

Yes, 30% of my live set is unreleased stuff coming soon.

Normann & Ole HK present Helt Texas!

There’s nothing subtle about a Thursday night out. It takes commitment and a certain devil-may-care attitude to spend the precursor to the weekend on the dance floor. It’s a culture all on its own and over the last year we’ve seen it flourish into a night all onto its own. Music and mood with a predisposition for the unencumbered, it has established itself as one of the highlights on our week-day calendar in no small part to Normann & Ole HK. 

The DJ duo have become a fixture in Jaeger’s sauna over the last year, playing alongside Finnebassen during his residency at Jaeger. They’ve become known for their charismatic sets with a broad appeal that is able to unite a dance floor. As we bid farewell to Finnebassen, it was only natural that they would step into Thursdays and with some pretty big shoes to fill, they too are going big, as they bring their new concept Helt Texas! to Jaeger’s sauna in October.

Launching this Thursday, Helt Texas! consolidates all that experience Normann & Ole HK have garnered over the course of the last year, reconstituted as its own. It fosters the cult of Thursdays with a style of music and a mood that they’ve mastered in their short tenure here already as they seek to develop it even further with guests that share their approach. As familiar fixtures on this scene, both in the booth and beyond, they’ve amassed a significant collection of friends and together they will call in a new era for Thursdays with  Helt Texas!

As Normann and Ole HK take the helm this week, we sent out some questions to ask about Helt Texas! and what the significance of the new night from the DJ’s perspective. They might be a bit hazy on how they met, but they are clear on their new concept and what they look to establish for Thursdays at Jaeger. 

So Helt Texas! There’s certainly no mistaking the vibe of the night based on the name, but what does it reflect in terms of music?

Normann: Who knows? I don’t think we know ourselves… but expect a lot of groove and energy. We might end up playing slow and steady, but we can also end on 30 trance, soo.. I know – Helt Texas!

Ole HK:  For me the name of the concept is more about seeing our Thursdays at Jaeger in a bigger picture than only the music. We want it to be “Helt Texas” in the way that the backyard is packed with the best people we know and where you can go mental to the best underground music 

You guys have been doing these Thursday nights for a while, often stepping in for Finnebassen, so what does it mean for you and the night as you officially baptise it?

Ole HK: First, I have to give Finn a big big big shout out and say thank you for that he invited me to be a part of his “Finnebassen Thursdays crew”. For me as an up and coming DJ it was pretty huge to be invited into his DJ stable. He showed me so much music and gave me so much inspiration over the last years that I will be forever grateful for what that talented man has given to me and my DJ career. So the fact that me and Edvard are taking over the Thursdays  is pretty huge and something I’m really proud of. We have been playing every second Thursday this summer so I feel the backyard is in safe hands, so for now it’s all about counting days to kickstart our “Helt Texas” concept 6th October!!! Can’t wait! 

Normann: Yes, It means a lot! Both of us have played, both at Jaeger and other places for years, but to have a concept of our own is a dream come true! Jaeger is by far one of our favourite places to play, and to be able to have a residency here is great. The soundsystem, the mixer and of course the people here are just amazing!

Can you give us the musical direction of the night in a couple of words?

Ole HK: Couple of words? Impossible. Come check out instead! We’ll not disappoint

Normann: As mentioned we don’t have a really specific sound, but what I think will be common for our nights musically is firm and steady grooves. Probably a bit darker than straight up disco, but hey expect the unexpected; sometimes it will be as pure disco nights.

Ole HK: Often when we start our Thursdays we build it up from some funky/oriental 105 bpm stuff and finish it with some banging house/techno around 126-128 bpm. We love it like we love all kinds of genres and tempo in electronic music. 

You appear to be very busy, playing at least twice a week, alone and together and at different places. How does what you plan on doing with this night differ from what you’ll do at these other places?

Ole HK: Yes I’m playing every week around town, but it’s not that often where I’m playing a club gig from 22:00 until closing 03:00 actually. So the fact that we have five hours all alone to build and create our musical story is kind of special with the night. 

Normann: In terms of music it’s hard to say how it will differ, but because Jaeger is such a unique place with a certain vibe it will for sure be one of the highlights during the week (at least in my opinion). It’s a free space where everyone is different, but at the same time alike in many ways. Of course we will play a lot of music that we know people in general like, but we will also try to “educate” people by playing things they didn’t know they liked. That’s what DJing is to me at least, and Jaeger is a place where this is possible.  

What do you bring out in each other when you’re in the booth together?

Ole HK: First of all it’s very easy to play with Edvard cause he is insanely good and talented. Edvard is a real musician, DJ and producer so he knows what he is doing. But to answer your question it’s always nice to be two on it. If I’m struggling a bit to find the right tracks or I’m in a “bad mood” we can discuss and help each other. Edvard has more experience so he can spice it up sometimes when I’m too focused on going safe and “pleasing the crowd”. Also after a year as b2b-partners we have been close friends so sharing moments and nights together is just awesome and more fun than doing it alone. I love Edvard as a DJ and partner, but also as a person and friend! 

Normann: I think we fulfil each other really well! And for the last year or so it has only gotten better. We don’t have to physically communicate, we just kind of know where the other one is. Even though  we have the same taste in music, it is not identical of course – but that’s a good thing I think. So hopefully we would be able to surprise you guys as much as we surprise each other. 

How did you guys meet?

Ole HK:  I met Edvard first time in 2018 at The Villa. He doesn’t remember that, haha, but I said hi to him and that I’ve heard him playing around and that I liked it. And to confirm what I said about him in the previous question he was so humble and kind and took his time to talk with me when I was the new guy in town who moved from the North of Norway. So in 2020 I started working as an event organiser and booking manager for DJs at a venue and nightclub called Pakkhuset. Edvard was of course one of the first guys I contacted and since then the relationship has been growing to be bigger and stronger every month.

Normann: I honestly don’t remember that night at The Villa, but if you say so! Haha.. But we started to play together during corona lockdown basically. Doing small sets/nights for friends and also some live streams. From there on we became great friends and now also partners in crime. 

In terms of music, where do your tastes converge?

Ole HK: Our taste is pretty similar of course, and we both like to mix in the same way. But I think the fact that we both love all kinds of music (not even just electronic music) makes our relationship very good and easy to work with. When we are together in the booth we can play, share and handle all types of electronic music, independent of genre and just enjoy each other. That’s so cool.

Normann: Our taste is similar, but also very different from time to time. Which is perhaps the main reason I think we go so well together. There is an individuality and personality there even though we play as one. 

How do you think it will be reflected in the guests you’ll be inviting to Helt Texas?

Ole HK: We want to have a mix of established and up and coming DJs. Like we have booked for the opening night of Helt Texas. Those two bookings are very representative of what we want and what we’re gonna book in the future.

Normann: Hopefully a lot of new and upcoming musicians with different styles, but also established and experienced people would be fun. There is so much talent in this city now, and especially women! Watch out – because they are reeeeally good!

Let’s talk about this first one. You’ve got Marcus Hitsøy and Henriku coming to inaugurate the night. What was the thought behind those guests and what do you hope to establish going forward?

Normann: They are great DJs and also pretty new to the scene. They really deserve to play in my opinion. I remember I first met Henriku when I moved to Berlin back in 2017. We immediately became friends because of our similar taste in music, and he continued to stay and evolve after I moved back home. Now also with his first release together with Alexander Skancke (which is dope). He is also a frequent DJ around in Berlin, so again a perfect fit for our opening night!

I think the opening night will be a good representation of what to expect in the future. It would be fun if these Thursdays turned into a hangout spot for people of any age with a passion for electronic music.    

Ole HK: Therefore Marcus Hitsøy and Henriku are the perfect booking for our opening party. Marcus is new to the scene and a really talented and passionate DJ. He is a part of the Sous-Vide label and have been playing groovy house and minimal a few times already in the backyard when they had their Sunday residency. Can’t wait to have him back. 

Yes Ole, I guess your relationship with Sous-Vide paved the way for this one too. 

Ole HK: Yes I really like the minimal groove and I was working and playing with Marcus in SVR. I saw how talented and passionate he is and Edvard knows Henrik, who also playa and produces the same style of electronic music – so then the line up of our opening party was complete! 

That’s all the questions I have for now. Anything you want to add?

Ole HK: Come to Jaeger 6th of October! It’s gonna be HELT TEXAS!!!!!!!!!!

A Ukrainian woman: Interview with Nastia

“What a way to end a set!” echoes through the crowd as the last remnants of an amen-breakbeat fade out. Nastia takes a reverent bow while the people in Jaeger’s basement press up against the booth, some of them still holding up phones, illuminated with the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Nothing she played alluded to any Ukrainian nationality, but there was an obvious and visible acknowledgement and you would have to have been living under a rock this past year, to avoid news of the ingoing war in Ukraine. I hear messages of support in English and what I assume is Nastia’s native-tongue, and while people file out of the basement as I’m reminded yet again of Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton’s iconic quote form Last Night a DJ saved my life; “Dancing is political, stupid!”

It’s a quote I was eager to bring up when I sat down with Nastia earlier that day in the hotel lobby. Did it resonate with the Ukrainian DJ under the circumstances? “To be honest I don’t have an answer to this question,” she considers for a moment, “because the opinion is so big and there are so many sides to it.“ Even so, she can’t seem to draw a definitive line in the sand for politics, because in her opinion “we’re all dependent on it!” It’s “pure ignorance,” she pressed to propagate a “message that music is out of politics.” 

Nastia’s fortitude and resilience in the face of the terrible atrocities facing her homeland has been an inspiration to witness. She has been a vocal critic since the war erupted with Russian troops invading Ukraine and continues to show a determined front under what I can only assume to be difficult personal circumstances. 

“It’s a hard situation for everybody,” she remarks ”not just for me and I still believe I’m one of the lucky ones.” Even though Nastia and her daughter are technically refugees, they’re not dependent on their refugee status and have declined the help of foreign governments. While other women in the same situation rely on international aid, Nastia and her daughter want for nothing. I’m super lucky to be an international artist,” she admits with her language skills and experiences as a well-travelled artist giving her an advantage over most. 

She currently resides in Amsterdam. The “cute and cosy” Dutch capital was the “only city” she considered when she had to relocate. Its accessibility to an international DJ circuit and its central location within Europe had a big influence on her decision, but I doubt it has given her any respite from being away from her home in Kyiv and the family and friends she left behind. 

At the time of writing her daughter will be enrolled in a boarding school in the UK, and with her daughter’s father returning to the front-line after recovering from injuries sustained on his last tour, Nastia’s family is currently spread across Europe while she continues to work, travelling around the globe. I can’t imagine this is easy for the DJ. “Why?” she replies. “I have to be an example,” she says flatly. “I truly believe I have a purpose. I have a responsibility.” It’s the nature of “being a Ukrainian woman; We don’t wait for help.“ 

It’s that very same resolution that propelled Nastia forward on the 24th of February 2022, when she woke up to the news of the Russian invasion. She packed her car with her daughter and drove to the Polish border. “We were supposed to fly to Turin,” she remembers, but  “the war arrived earlier” than expected, closing the airport on the day of their proposed flight. Nastia had two options; take the train or drive. She chose to drive, thinking it would be safer and  “more independent,” but having never driven across a border she admits she “was not prepared.” She “left, with a half empty bag, because I couldn’t understand what I needed at the moment,” and stressed continuously about whether she had the correct documents to get across. After twenty four hours of driving, most of which was stuck in long queues at the border and between borders, she and her daughter finally made it safely across the border. It was a harrowing ordeal even with the “incredible” job by the Polish border. 

Unlike the Polish border and much like Nastia, most of Ukraine was blindsided by the news of the Russian invasion. “Nobody knew,” the war was coming , because in Ukraine they had kept news of Russia’s advancing forces scant. “They were keeping it till the end, because they didn’t want people to panic,“ explains Nastia.  She and most of Kyiv were having “a normal day,” and “personally” she, like most of us watching events unfold remotely, “didn’t believe it” would ever happen. We were all, except perhaps for the American politicians, taken by surprise. 

We were all under the impression that a relative peace had reigned in the region after a tumultuous decade. We saw the uprising of the Maidan revolution as the start of a political revolution for the  country, one that would be sadly bookended by the eventual annexation of Crimea by Russian forces by 2014. It seemed a compromise was reached, but unbeknownst to most, tensions continued to simmer. 

From Russia’s point of view the situation was exasperated at the arrival of pro-European/pro-west leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The ex-actor/comedian was elected in 2019, with huge public support rallying behind his efforts after the 2014 revolution. It seemed that the people finally had their man,  but with Russia’s Vladimir Putin proclaiming a “nazi” force was at work in the Ukrainian capital, it didn’t go down so well in the east of the region.

“Before the revolution in 2014,” explains Nastia, “he (Putin) was sure (Ukraine) was going to be a Russian country like Belarus,” kowtowing to Russian trade agreements and political demands. When Ukraine’s people lead by Zelenskiy, “took the direction towards a European union” and refused “to join Russia in a trade agreement” this was the straw the camel’s back for Putin, who insisted now that he wanted to “denazify” Ukraine in what he deemed a “special military operation.”

That, now familiar rhetoric, “is just one man and a toxic propaganda,” according to Nastia. It’s no secret she has been a staunch supporter of Zelenskiy and his efforts. She voted for Zelenskiy and is in favour of a European Union. She believes in a free Ukraine, not some soviet hinterland smothered in the tight grip of Putin’s fist. “If this had been Poroshenko,” Ukraine’s previous president, she continues, “he would’ve given away Ukraine.” Even while Poroshenko formed the first government after the 2014 revolution, Nastia is certain it took Zelenskiy’s resolution to free Ukraine from Russia’s nostalgic fever dream of a reunited USSR. “There is no other politician in Ukraine that would’ve defended Ukraine like Zelenskiy,” she insists.

Images of the resilient president, dressed in fatigues like a live-action G.I Joe, cut a determined image at the outbreak of the war and continues to do so in the media today. The young president refused to flee his country even at the insistence of his foreign counterparts, a stark contrast to Putin, hiding away in his “humble” abode. As fighting intensified, driving Russian troops eastward, his fortitude inspired a nation and a whole European continent for Nastia. “European leaders believed that Ukraine could win, and they started to help,” she believes. “Most of the people didn’t accept Zelenskiy as a serious president and it was only when the war started,” that the public opinion shifted.

Unfortunately, this public opinion didn’t seem to reach the Russian people. In what she believes is one the “most shocking” developments in this war, Nastia says it has “completely” broken down the relationship between Ukrainian- and the Russian citizens. “We felt that we were on the same page,“ but after the war broke out “we clearly saw it was not like that.” Part propaganda, part ignorance and part misremembered history, have skewed the Russian narrative on the situation. Nastia thinks there’s “no way back” in mending these broken fences with her neighbours and in some sense her fellow countrymen.

Born in Fabrychne, a small village rubbing shoulders with the Russian border in the Luhansk region, Nastia was born into a Russian speaking family. For all intents and purposes she might have been Russian, depending on your perspective at that time. Nastia spent her formative years in this “poor” village, making regular trips to the closest big city, Donetsk. Her sisters had established residence there and when Nastia finished her schooling, she moved to the city to pursue a tertiary education at the University of Donetsk’s Marketing faculty. It’s then she starts dancing “in the best club” in the city, setting off on a path toward her eventual career as an internationally acclaimed DJ.

Today, her father remains in Luhansk, and her sisters have been living in Donetsk and Crimea respectively, all places currently under Russian control. I’m curious what people like her father and her sisters make of the situation. “My father is absolutely out of the whole thing,” she answers. “He’s an ignorant pacifist.” Nastia understands, but doesn’t defend, the 65-year-old’s position, refraining from dragging up politics when they talk, but I sense there’s frustration there that we’re all currently feeling with that generation. It’s different with her sisters though. “My older sister, of course she sees things, but she can’t do anything, and she’s accepted the conditions she has to live in. She doesn’t think it’s black and white, she believes there’s fault on both sides.” And what of the middle sister that has been in Crimea since before the 2014 revolution? While Nastia believes, “Crimea became a better place,” in terms of infrastructure, she concurrently believes it has robbed the region of an independent will. 

A holiday destination to Russians and Ukrainians alike, Crimea has always relied on the enterprise of its citizens to take advantage of seasonal business. With the arrival of the Russians, this has taken the agency away from the Crimeans, and has dwindled the opportunity for new businesses to thrive. “The roads, the kindergartens and the renovations, don’t compensate for the quality of life of the people,” insists Nastia. “You have to live your life independently,” and since the Russian occupation, independence has been a distant reality in the scope of the faux-socialist dogma of the oligarchs. 

This is perhaps why there has been a lot more resistance coming from Kyiv than these regions according to Nastia. “I think it’s all about education.” Growing up in the Luhansk region, she’s witnessed many who have fallen victim to the “poor” mentality that these rural regions encourage. “If you were able, like me, to move away from the small village to the capital,” clarifies Nastia, “then you have something in your mind; you have ideas, knowledge and skills, it makes you stronger.” Other “people that were born and going to die in the same village” don’t have that perspective and Nastia suggests that they have become “slaves” to their own limitations, and thus Russian demands.

It will take more people like Nastia, who although born in a Russian-speaking family,  “identifies as Ukrainian.” It might just be a “state of mind” for most, but in Nastia’s case, that state of mind has given her purpose in what she does as a DJ, a label owner, and event organiser today. It extends from her work in the booth to her own charitable foundation, which raises money for children’s hospitals and animal shelters in Ukraine. Her Nechto nights and record label have become something of a platform for these fundraising efforts and from every set she plays, she has been able to direct some of her personal earnings to the cause, significantly funnelled into the military effort of her homeland.

“Every gig is a challenge” however. The “hardest thing” has been “to focus on the music” while the war rages on, she understandably admits.  She”checks the music news much less” while  her inbox continues to fill with unopened demos. “I’m not ready for that. It invests so much effort.” She still experiences “heart-attacks” before taking to the booth, and was taking prescribed anxiety medication from the onset of the war up until August. Yet she perseveres calling it her “purpose” at the moment. Besides the label Nechto, releasing records from Ukrainian artists, she is also aiding Ukrainian DJs and artists in their quest for visas and temporary discharges from the Ukrainian military (“most of them are men”) to play in Europe. 

She goes back to Kiyv at least once a month for the moment, and notices while there’s still a tension in the air, there’s also been “a lot of discussion about how to live: “Shall I feel guilty that I’m trying to live the life I’ve had before the war, while other people are dying on the frontline. Some people figure that we can not go out, go to the party, or go to the restaurant because people are dying in the front. But other people are saying that yes but they are dying for us. We need to live so that their efforts are not (in vain).

Either way, there haven’t been that many electronic music events cropping up in the city “because of the curfew,” but there have been some cultural events, keeping up the spirits of the population. Nastia has feigned to create any events in the city herself, believing that “you have to be part of the scene” to do anything there. She hopes to eventually see an echo of what happened after the 2014 revolution when “we came back to parties in the summer and the scene went to another level,” but is reluctant to get her hopes up just yet. “I don’t see an end,” she says in a discouraging tone. “I don’t think anybody else has an idea of how or when it’s going to finish, even Putin.”

If it were up to the people on the dance floor in Jaeger’s basement on that evening, this war would already be over. Nobody else seems to want it either, except one man and the sycophantic yes-men that surround him. The only hope we have is that something befalls the Russian leader, but as Nastia so eloquently put it; “the war doesn’t only depend on him.” 

As Nastia’s set came to an end, she was smiling in response to the audience. Eeking across 140BPM, her set was built on a sense of groove that often belies those tempos. The people on the night responded in kind, whooping at quieter intermissions, and always ready with a cheer when she transitions into something familiar. There’s respect and familiarity involved in the turnout and their appreciation, but one can’t simply dismiss the extenuating factors of a war in Ukraine in this situation, especially when people are visibly waving Ukrainian flags. Even as the media’s coverage wanes and a world view turns more apathetic, it seems that people are still here and still willing to make a stand; even if it’s just for a few hours on the dance floor. 

Words: Mischa Mathys

Photos: Johannes Krogh

In safe hands – Profile on Mano Le Tough

“Thanks to Mano Le Tough I’m not afraid (for) the future of house music.” That’s what Âme and Innervisions’ Kristian Beyer reckoned back in 2012 when the Guardian asked him to peer into his musical crystal ball. Beyer and Innervisions cohort, Dixon had been staunch supporters of Mano Le Tough’s (Niall Mannion) music, his tracks regularly making an appearance in their DJ sets. The Irish producer and DJ had become a sought-after presence in some of Europe’s most lauded DJ booths, and while the Innervisions confirmation was welcomed, Mano Le Tough’s career hardly needed the reinforcement, even then. ou don’t become a meme without having some clout on the scene, after all.

By the time Beyer’s quote surfaced, it’s fair to say Mano Le Tough had already established himself, forging a distinctive path as a DJ and artist, putting him in that upper echelon where the kind of people cheering him on resided. “2012 is when things really started to speed up, when I started doing over 100 gigs a year, and released my first album,” he confirmed in The Irish Times. It was year zero in becoming a household name, but he wasn’t exactly an overnight success either. 

Growing up in Ireland, we don’t know much about Niall Mannion’s life before Mano Le Tough. Bits from interviews suggested he was a quizzical music fan, but with early influences like Radiohead being referenced and the fact that he had “been in bands” when he was younger, it seems Mannion was more at ease with a guitar than a synthesiser during his formative years. At some point the switch to electronic music must have happened because by 2007, he had garnered a following on Myspace and made the move to the electronic music capital, Berlin. 

Mano Le Tough in the studio

“It was fairly meagre when I first got to Berlin,” Mannion told The Irish Times, reflecting on that time. “I was working in an Irish pub, actually a couple of different pubs, and running small parties with friends.” Earning his chops in what would have been a very busy and competitive Berlin scene at the time, he put in his time as Mano Le Tough and  his efforts were soon rewarded. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t determined,” he told XLR8R during an interview a while back. “Chasing the dream” during this period, there were a couple of key events that set him on the trajectory. 

Going to Red Bull Music Academy in 2010 was “one of the most important developments” and then when everyone started playing his track Primitive People, it too became a “cornerstone” of his career. It was the first release from his debut LP and with people like Tale of Us and Dixon jumping on the remixes, it played a seminal role in propelling Mano Le Tough to the  forefront of the world stage as a DJ. And where most would shrink in the shadow of some of the world’s most renowned DJ booths, Mano Le Tough, dominated it. Abated by his experiences when he was still a burgeoning DJ, he became a familiar headliner all across Europe, with the prowess to back up his rising reputation.

He can easily go 10 hours behind the decks, and still “routinely” does without breaking a sweat, and it’s that skill that installed the name Mano Le Tough beyond Primitive People, and continues to be a drawcard for old and new audiences alike. 

“You really have to look after your relationship with DJing,” Mannion explained in XLR8R. “If you do it too much, or you play in the wrong places, the love for it can fade, and you can’t really come back from that place—unless you have a break from it.”  The tight-rope act he walks has secured his precarious position between the underground electronic music scene and the big rooms he plays week in and week out. 

Known for his immersive journeys, Mano Le Tough’s sets are fluid expressions through his unique vision of House music which concurrently had a broad appeal on the dance floor. When the likes of Resident Advisor were still doing DJ rankings, he would often be in the top tier of these lists, and when Boiler Room came along he would be one of the first guests to break a million views on the platform.

Such was and is his popularity as a DJ that it often overshadows his work as a producer, but it’s exactly for his records that the Innervisions guys first singled him out (and for records not even on their label) and why he remains in the purview of our scene. 

In his work in the studio we have the same kind of ethos that drives his experiences as a DJ. “If you try to produce records to fit in with trends then you’re already two steps behind,” Mannion told XLR8R around the time his second LP Trails was released. A lot had changed since his debut LP Changing Days by the time of Trails. “I’ve developed a lot in terms of production technique, and I trust myself a lot more in terms of taking chances. I was much more open with the process, and I had a lot more confidence.” 

The LP coincided with a move to Switzerland where it was quite a different experience than his time in Berlin, where “the line [between home and work] was far more blurred.”  Moving to Switzerland was “a really positive thing for everything, music included,” he explained in XLR8R. “It’s given me so much energy and that has given me clarity of thought,” he continues. “It’s offered me the opportunity to really develop as an artist.” The result was the “deepest, most personal” work to that date. It came during a time of manic creativity, but  reflecting on the LP much later he would also say:  “In fact, after Trails, I said I’d never do another one because it didn’t go as well as I wanted it. I rushed the whole thing. I should have just stepped back and given it more time.”

This is something he felt that he could correct by the time he reached his third and latest offering in the long format, facilitated in part by the first wave of the pandemic. “I’d wanted to make a new album but that process was getting interrupted every year by being on the road too much,” he told Musicradar at the time.” This time, although it was extremely difficult for many reasons, being at home gave me the chance to work properly on the record and finish it.” The result was At the Moment, an album that’s a departure from anything else he’s done in the past, moving the furthest from those House-music inclinations into a more organic realm. 

Mano Le Tough at the keys

Time seems to slow during the record as inert guitar licks and slothful dubbed-out rhythms collide in miasmic atmospheres. Mano Le Tough’s sterile touch prevails in a glossy exterior that hides tumultuous layers. His voice dominates on this record more than ever and there is something in those youthful influences like Radiohead and some new ones like Steve Reich that certainly come to the fore here. “I felt that I was going full circle back to the music I grew up with,” he confirms in Musicradar, “but filtering it through the lens of my electronic music or DJ career.”

He stopped short of calling it a complete evolution in his work. “I wouldn’t say it’s a change in direction, just the logical next step.” It’s a dramatic step nonetheless, more like a leap, and it certainly changes the perspective of his music. Is it still House music at this point? It’s up to the listener, but it certainly channels some obvious references from House music, enough for  people from Resident Advisor to be able to still associate. In Henry Ivry ‘s review of the record, he called it “a surprising and refreshing record” marking specifically the “swaggering guitar hero” tone that it sets throughout.

I’m curious what Âme’s Kristian Beyer would think of it and if he’d still stand by his 2012 quote. My guess is yes, because if you hear what the likes of Bonobo, George FitzGerald and Ross from Friends are doing in House music echelons, we’re certainly moving towards the very same sound Mano Le Tough is perpetuating through his last record.

How does this influence what he does in the booth today? Probably little. While the nature of the recorded format has changed, especially in the realm of albums, the DJ is still a facilitator for a dance floor, and in that respect Mano Le Tough is a master at work. We’d expect nothing less than the cumulative experiences of a DJ that has made an indelible mark on the scene. 

Watch Center on the universe perform live for Jaeger Mix

In a first for the Jaeger mix, we present a video recording of Center of the Universe’s contribution to the Jaeger Mix series.

At the Center of the universe is man. He is a curious man. He plays a clarinet, and conjures obscure alien sonic aesthetics from noisy machines. He channels a diverse collage of musical languages through his work, always underpinned by a catchy beat. When he is not making beats he is proliferating others’ music with artists that orbit him and his label, Metronomicon. He is a musical maelstrøm at the Center of the universe, and he is our first guest back for the Jaeger mix after a long hiatus for the series.

Jørgen Sissyfus Skjulstad is the man at the Center of the Universe. The musical project has been a fixture in Oslo and Norway with records and live performances transmitting the artist’s singular voice across formats and contexts. Perfectly at home in a DJ booth, as well as a stage, Center of the Universe’s music moves effortlessly between worlds, often bringing disparate musical planets together in the process. 

Between non-western scales and pop-culture musical references, a post-modern spirit moves through his records, his videos and his live show. It was indeed a live-show he insisted upon when he asked him to revive the Jaeger mix series, encouraging the series to capture everything on camera and in audio for this occasion. Carting some synthesisers, drum machines, light-bulbs and a traffic sign into the sauna, Center of the Universe captivated with an esoteric live show, one which we’re happy to have captured in the visual format for the first time. 

In an unprecedented event of the Jaeger mix series, we have a video of the performance. Re-live the moments from our sauna, where Center of the Universe performs some of his latest hits like  Track ID, MP3 and NFT.  You can read the full interview with Jørgen and the audio recording here.

Keep the party going at the end of the world with Ost & Kjex

In today’s content-driven society, it’s so easy to drown in new records. Demanding release schedules leave us weary with even some of our favourite artists saturating streaming platforms and record shelves with their work. It has reached a point where five years between releases seem an absolute age and any longer interval between records is presumed a comeback by media outlets.

That’s why when Ost & Kjex announced their latest LP, “Songs from the end of the world”, with a seven-year gap between their last, “Freedom Wig,” people started calling it a comeback album. It simply wasn’t the case. They’ve continued to release records, like the mesmerising Private Dancer; set up their own label; and remained a presence on Oslo’s and Norway’s live stages. And that’s not including the Tore “Ost” Gjedrem’s side project Sex Judas

They’ve been busy, and in Oslo they’ve been a constant presence, noted for their jovial and ebullient dance floor creations and engaging live shows. Their latest album is very much a “continuation” of the Ost & Kjex sound and Dadaist approach to the dance floor,  as they traverse through sequenced rhythms and enigmatic melodies. Return guest WhaleSharkAttacks feature alongside other collaborators, as “Songs from the end of the world” makes a stand at the centre of the dance floor.

Between enchanting vocals and grooves, there’s the spectre of a soul that permeates through the record counterpointing the glossy sheen of its electronic counterparts. There’s an element of Ost & Kjex’s live performances at work, which infer that human touch, and lets the caricatures that they’ve created around this project run rampant across the record. Like a couple of comic strip characters brought to life, there’s a sense of playfulness that provokes at a visceral level, even though the subject matter of this record might appear bleak on its cover. 

We were eager to find out more about what exactly influenced the record and what planted the seed, as well as what this record actually means in the story of Ost & Kjex. We reached out and Ost obliged with some answers to our questions ahead of their next appearance at Jaeger.

This will be your first LP away from the Diynamic; the first Ost & Kjex LP on your own label Snick Snack Music; and the first LP in 7 years (wow, feels like Freedom Wig came out yesterday). Would it be safe to assume that this is a new chapter in the Ost & Kjex annals?

I must say we are as shocked as you by how fast time flies, and in relation to this the new album feels more like a steady continuation than a new chapter. To some listeners it might seem like a new start, but we live, think and dream about this project every day, even though our output is quite slow.

Can we ask what inspired the decision to set off on your own towards a distinct path with Snick Snack?

After we parted ways with Diynamic we felt the need to control every aspect of the creative process. One thing is the music itself, another is the release schedule. It’s hard for an artist to wait months, sometimes a year before the actual product comes out. We move on so quickly to the next thing and the music easily seems dated. 

Another major inspiration is the current state of affairs in the Norwegian electronic underground. The quality and amount of music coming out locally was just too good to ignore. We also wanted to see if we could use some of our experience from the business to help the local scene. 

What does “Songs from the end of the world” signify for you and your career?

Not too much, even though it felt nice to get a new album out. For attention in some parts of the press like the dailies, you have to release albums. Some journalists even called it a comeback album, even though we have released quite a few ep’s since “Freedom Wig”. I think our release rate is the worst possible when it comes to keeping the attention of the listeners and media in today’s over heated SoMe driven society. On the other side, I can’t keep up with the release schedule of even some of my favourite artists, as they are flooding the market to keep the attention up.  

It’s quite an apt title for an album in these trying times, but most of the music subverts the theme as ebullient constructions that are very familiar as your sound. Is there a thematic significance to the title and how does it tie in with the music?

The title is definitely a comment on the times we are living in, with the Pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, climate change and the rise of the new Right with its Neo Fascist ideals. It is also a comment on Norway’s position on the outskirts of Europe and the music world.

It’s not a gloomy album, even though it has some dark parts. The idea is to keep the party going, even though we are going down first class. 

Have you guys changed or adapted to anything in the environment beyond music that is specifically significant for this LP?

The pandemic affected this album big time. We originally planned a totally different approach with lots of musical collaborations, field recordings etc. The virus forced us to make this one by ourselves, bouncing ideas back and forth between our studios. Artistically I’m quite happy it turned out this way as it forced us to pay closer attention to our own productions and not rely on the magic of others. 

As always, your music skirts that border between the dance floor and a set of headphones. What context were you particularly leaning toward on this record?

We specifically wanted to make a club album, something people could dance to when society opens up after Covid. That being said, there will always be an introspective, sound geek aspect to our music. We are deeply in love with that side of electronic music. 

How much is it informed with what you’ve been hearing on the dance floor lately?

Not much.

We’re all getting a bit older, and Saturday nights are spent with a good bottle of wine at home rather than at a nightclub these days. So how do you satisfy those dance impulses that used to come from going out every weekend to a club on an LP like this? 

The club experience is our ideal. Even though we are getting quite old, we still think we are the energetic ravers we once were. Even an honest look in the mirror doesn’t seem to cure this disillusion. 

One element that stands out on  “Songs from the end of the world” is the collaborations. There’s more here than before, I believe. Why have you started working more with other people, and what does it bring out in your own work?

Actually there are a lot less collaborations on this album than on any of our previous ones. 

That being said, we always loved to work with other people as they bring in a different approach and energy to our work. I believe all my best creative work has been made in collaboration with others. 

WhaleSharkAttacks is on a couple of tracks, and you’ve worked with her before on the unforgettable Private Dancer. What is it about this enigmatic artist that first encouraged you to collaborate with her in the first place, and what makes you guys click so effortlessly? 

It’s her self-assured style and effortlessly cool vocals that drew us in. Also we are very impressed by her productions and ability to mix genres into something entirely her own. Viviana is also a very intelligent person with strong and interesting perspectives on the world.

So the social aspect is also important, we love to hang out with her.  

With like-minded artists like WhaleSharkAttacks and Wildflowers (Øyvind Morken & Kaman Leung) joining you guys and Trulz & Robin, there’s a small family that’s come into existence around Snick Snack. Who and what do you look for in the label to join the catalogue?

We look for artists with an original sound that seem to exist in a world of their own, even though they are part of a bigger scene. Artists that can make interesting albums as well as a few dance floor bombs. We look for Norwegian artists or people living permanently in Norway, as we see Snick Snack as a vehicle to help develop the local scene. 

Are there any exciting new artists joining the lineup in the near future?

Plenty! We are really excited to release an EP by the duo Synk this autumn / winter. Helene Rickhard is currently working on an album for Snick Snack that I think is gonna be something really special. First thing to come out this autumn is a fab. solo EP by Øyvind Morken with some post Italo bangers. And there is more to come. 

What were some of the positive experiences about releasing the LP on your own label?

Above all, full artistic freedom. Even though this freedom also comes with a lot of responsibility. If something goes wrong you can blame only yourself. And also you don’t have the promotional help of a big team that often comes with a larger label. Another major plus is that you gain so much knowledge on how the whole music business works. You are no longer a passive bystander the second after you deliver the music to the label. We can now influence the whole process from start to finish.

Ost, you’re also doing a lot with your other project Sex Judas at the same time. What takes precedent when you’re working on music these days and how do you compartmentalise those two projects individually?

It’s quite easy actually as Ost & Kjex is something Petter and I do together. So anything happening with that project is something we do in tandem. Stuff happens when we stick our heads together. As for Sex Judas, I started the project as an outlet where I could experiment and draw inspiration from a lot of the music I love, that don’t fit in with the Ost & Kjex sound. I felt a need to start with clean sheets. Tabula Rasa as they say. 

At the same time, as releasing the LP for Ost & Kjex, there’s also a remix Sex Judas EP. Tell us a bit more about how that came together and how Cosmic pioneer Daniele Baldelli alongside his long-time production partner, Rocca ended up there.

Nothing more fancy than I wanted some “club” remixes from the “Night Songs” album. I always had a big appetite for electronic music and club / dance music. From jazz, funk, disco, boogie to braindance, idm, house, breaks etc. Danielle Baldelli is a major cat in the dance floor continuum and most importantly a cosmic messenger. It is a great honour to have such a foreseeing artist remix our music. 

It’s an incredibly eclectic mix of artists and sounds coming together on that remix collection, with a very eccentric delivery. Was that always the intention or was it a happy coincidence due the artists you picked out for the assignment?

It was intentional and hopefully in tune with the aspirations I have for this project.

Why these songs and will there be a second volume with some more from the LP?

I picked out Slow Down for Danielle Baldelli as I thought it would be a good match. The original is quite long and cosmic, although in another way than disco. As Roe Deers and Utheo Choerer they picked their own favourites from the album. I don’t think there will be a second volume of remixes. 

But I digress. We’re here to talk about Ost & Kjex. In terms of presenting your music, you prefer the live format. Why do you feel most comfortable in that context?

We come from a band setting, so we brought this element with us when we started making electronic music. There were so many, I wouldn’t say boring, but introspective live acts around when we first hit the scene. People staring into their laptops and little boxes. 

This perspective changed dramatically when we first experienced Jamie Lidell, Herbert and above all Nozé perform live for the first time. It blew our minds and opened up new possibilities for energetic live performances. Also there is the simple fact that we love to perform and entertain. It’s a very rewarding way to play music where one interacts directly with the audience and feeds off each other’s energies. 

You mentioned in your last email, it’s going to be a collection of mostly new music, and some “Golden Oldies.” How have you adapted the “oldies” to fit into the set, and does the fact that it’s in a club setting change the nature of these familiar songs at all?

Indeed we have. We updated quite a few of the oldies to fit better with our current sound, which is currently a bit harder. Also we mix elements from the songs like dj’s do in their sets. This brings out some magic from time to time. I suggest people get their sexy arses down to Jaeger this Friday to hear for themselves. 

 

 

A very British institution with Alexander Nut

Alexander Nut beams with delight, holding a small bag of records at Råkk & Rålls in Oslo. He  insists there’s probably much more to dig through in the vast catacombs of music that constitutes the record store’s cellar, but luggage space is limited. Next time he considers, he might bring a bigger bag. 

Half an hour earlier, we’re sitting down in a shady spot in Oslo’s Spikersuppa. A brass band is marching their way down Karl Johan Gate with a honking brass noise drifting over the whole park. I have to repeat the question: “Will there ever come a time when you stop buying records?” “Probably not, ” he says confidently. “It’s a habit and that’s the way I grew up, interacting with music. I still love it.” 

He still travels with around 50 records (not leaving much space for new finds)  and when he’s not playing records, he’s “manufacturing” them through his record label Eglo; a label that has been championing the call for new UK left field club music since 2009 through artists like Floating Points, Funkineven, Fatima and most recently Shy One. 

Cutting his teeth on pirate radio, Alexander Nut became something of a tastemaker for a new sound of electronic music coming to the fore in a post-dubstep landscape in the UK. Through his early work at Rinse FM, back in the mid-2000’s, he turned a whole generation of music fans onto the emerging sounds of London’s post-dubstep set, providing a springboard for record labels and artists alike, some of who have gone on to become household names today. 

Guided by his own eclectic tastes, which include “anything and everything,” it continues to inform the sound and attitude of Eglo. He left an indelible mark on Rinse, before moving on to NTS, where today he feels that he can “do whatever I want” and there’s an audience out there that will listen to it. It’s given him the opportunity to play the music he didn’t get a chance to play at Rinse, with shows folding in everything from Roisin Murphy to Shy One, tracing a dotted-line through Alex’s own experience in music and his record collection, rather than an obligation to a scene.

That scene has largely dissolved today, diversifying into branches of Techno, House, Grime and UKG, but when it started it was a hive of activity with a “nice mix of east London ghetto kids, mixed with all these nerdy producer guys” interpreting the dance floor in new and original styles of music, predisposed by the same thing that informed Alexander’s eclectic nature.

“The UK music scene was quite tribal” back then according to Alexander when we start reflecting on this time in London. At the time, even at the no-holds-barred Rinse FM, he was “the odd one out.” When he started at the radio station, “there weren’t any platforms really,” and besides perhaps Giles Petterson and Benji B on BBC, there “wasn’t any leftfield, mixed-up shows.” With an objective of “filling a void,” he played only “new underground music,”  influenced largely by the “mutation of Dubstep, Garage and Jungle happening” at that time.

Permeating through the nocturnal habits of the UK metropolis at the time, it was music that gestated in the melting pot that is the UK’s diverse cultural backgrounds alongside a youthful inquisitiveness satisfied by the advent of an accessible internet – “Myspace was a hotbed for all kinds of people sharing music” – and a “record scene” that “was still strong” according to Alexander.  

Legendary clubbing institutions like Plastic People and FWD played a seminal part in this new underground with Alexander right there at the epicentre “aggregating all this new shit,” for Rinse  FM and his growing audience. He stops short of calling it “an obligation,” but feels that he had “a slight responsibility” if only for the people tuning every week. It’s always hard to relay the significance of this time and this scene in the UK for people with no reference point,  but as a writer I’ve always believed it should be appreciated in the same respect as what Acid House became through the Hacienda. It wasn’t a specific sound –  in fact it was exactly the absence of some musical consolidation –  but rather a spirit or an attitude. 

“You got to say,” explains Alexander  “it comes from  black culture, it comes from black music.”  By the time Rinse FM and FWD came to the fore however, and on the back of the Internet, it had taken on a  whole new significance. “It came to a point when I was a teenager,” he remembers, “and we were listening to that whole time-line; Reggae, Hip Hop, House, Drum n Bass and Garage.”  It was, in part, reflected in all “the different communities all living on top of each other,” who “all had these scenes” that were now influencing this next generation’s augury view of future sounds. 

The importance of Rinse FM and Alexander Nut could not be downplayed in this legacy. There are still people who come up to him, reflecting on the influence of his show on their formative years as teenagers listening to his broadcasts from their bedroom. It might make him feel “old as fuck” but he conceeds it “planted a seed.” After 8 years at Rinse FM however, he felt ”it was other people’s turn” and he could pass “on the batton” allowing him to move on to NTS where he could change the format to what we hear today. 

There’s no need to play the latest, groundbreaking work, giving him the opportunity to delve a little deeper into his own collection. Now it’s more about the  “past present and future,” on NTS whereas before “it was all about the future” on Rinse FM. 

Reflecting on his own past, Alexander is humble and respectful of the scene he grew up in, emphasising those formidable experiences growing up in Wolverhampton, in the UK’s west-Midlands. The town, located in the UK’s steel belt, is a town lost to an industrial age today, but curiously holds some key moments in the UKs music history, most significantly as the origin story for Goldie, the UK Drum n Bass pioneer, actor and yoga enthusiast. It is there in the same estate where Goldie grew up and tagged buildings, that Alexander Nut’s family has its roots. 

Raised in the council estates where you have all “the different communities, all living on top of each other,” the culture, funnelled down to Alexander, found outlets like skateboarding and graffiti before it solidified around DJing. “Seeing Goldie tags” around his neighbourhood,  “blew” Alexander’s mind as a youth and he soon realised he “wanted a piece of that.” In what is a familiar trope in DJ stories, graffiti and skateboarding went hand in hand with music and on the back of his older brother’s record collections which went from Hip Hop (“Wu Tang was huge to me”)  to Iron Maiden (“I still love Iron Maiden”) Alexander found a real appreciation for the pirate radio stations in his area. “There’s a really strong pirate radio scene in Wolverhampton” and “Skyline FM” run by Dread Lester (“Rest in Peace”) was a particularly strong draw for Alexander. As he was getting into DJing, largely playing Hip Hop, the objective had always been to have his own show on Skyline, and he would eventually realise his dream before moving to London.

Everything from “Jazz, Hip Hop, soul to funk” would inform his listening habits at the time. Fold all of that into the cauldron of London’s effervescent music scene where Grime, Garage, Drum n Bass and Dubstep were being co-opted into House, Techno and Electro, and we have that vibrant “cultural melting pot” that would lay the foundation for Alexander Nut’s career on Rinse FM and eventually Eglo. 

Yet again the Internet, Myspace’s and Plastic People’s importance cannot be overstated in Eglo’s existence. It was through Myspace that Alexander Nut first found Floating Points (Sam Sheppard). He had been playing a track called “For You” on his radio show at Rinse FM, when during a CDR night at Plastic People he heard the track being played through the club’s legendary bass-heavy sound system. CDR, like Alexander’s radio show, was a night that championed new producers, allowing unknown artists to bring in their music to hear it through a proper club sound system. The Floating Points track was announced, and Alexander asked the MC, “ where is he, point him out”; his only previous contact with the producer being through Sheppard’s Myspace page. 

It turned out Sheppard had been listening to Alexander’s radio show too, and when the two started talking it lead to the creation of Eglo with Floating Points establishing the label through the labels first 7”; the very same track that had been playing on Rinse FM and CDR on that significant night. 

“It  sold well” remembers Alexander who says  it “ignited the flame” and he proffered “I guess we’re a record label now.” Records like Funkineven’s Rolands Jam and Fatima’s Circle followed, with that very same eclectic approach, ebbing through Alexander’s own personal tastes. R&B, Garage, Chicago, Jazz and everything happening around the label in that time, were channelled through Eglo. It’s a “very British institution on these strange overlapping things”, considers Alexander when I ask about the ideologies behind the label. 

Eglo “is the sum of its parts.” It’s about “Funkineven, Fatima, Floating Points, Rinse FM and NTS. All these things play a part and it has its own identity. ”Even though Alexander might “listen to everything,” he feels Eglo is not necessarily a representation of his own listening habits, but rather a  “a true representation of all these connected things.” It all “started in the basement of plastic people”, and today it represents a network spreading across the world from “Australia to LA” as he continues making new friends and making connections.” It’s an honest, unique pure creation” he feels, based on those interactions in his musical world. It extends from that first Floating Points record to the latest Shy One 7″ today with every record offering a new node in this expanding musical universe.

Unfortunately, it’s probably also one of the last bastion’s for this kind of label in our hyper-commercialised landscape, which according to Alexander had become “a bit elitist and discriminatory” as more people cottoned on to the music. “As things became more accessible it killed some of the grassroots origins;” possibly represented in time by the change in sound system at Plastic People, right before it closed down. “It went from this monstrous bass-heavy system to an audiophile thing” remembers Alexander and he noticed the “crowd and promoters changed.” 

It probably came to its ultimate  conclusion by the time Boiler Room came on the scene with Alexander laying blame directly at their feet for this change in musical pursuits. “I’ll say this on record – Boiler Room ruined everything!  I‘m not trying to shit on the people that work there now,” he says but at a time when he was still promoting events in London they would often poach artists from his lineup and let Alexander foot the bill.

Putting up “A grand of my own money,” these artists would also play for Boiler Room for free on the promise of promotion, and it left Alexander dumbfounded; “‘You’re doing a free gig for these guys, when they all sponsored up’”. It was “killing grassroots promoters” like Alexander.

Even though he concedes that the platform’s impact in proliferating music is significant, he’s surethose same people” that found music through Boiler Room ”would’ve been introduced to the same music in a more illegitimate way” regardless. “All these platforms present themselves as these authentic grassroots organisations, but they are just auction sites. It’s all about numbers, what they can sell to their sponsors.” 

It’s certainly a world away from anything our generation experienced growing up and anything that Eglo continues to present to the world. I revel in Alexander’s honesty in his objections in a landscape that’s become somewhat careful of these criticisms, for fear of reprisal. Criticisms like these are very rarely brought to light and only spoken in hushed tones and off the record. It takes some real courage to come out and say these things we’re all thinking. It’s probably the reason why Alexander is one of the most respected DJs out there and Eglo records remain a formidable touchstone for us. 

Alexander admits, “I’m no longer the bastion of what’s the hottest, what’s the latest thing you know,” but that has only seemed to spur on a drive to contribute only what’s significant, whether it’s the music he plays or the music he puts out there in the world through Eglo.

It might be a cliche to label Alexander a melting pot of these diverse influences, but no other description would suffice on this occasion. From his early Hip Hop and graffiti roots in Wolverhampton; the influence of pirate radio; his own work on the radio; his influence on and from the likes of Plastic People and FWD; and the fact that on a sunny day in Oslo, he’d rather spend his time in a musty cellar looking for records, he’s a uniquely British institution and one of the few positive things that statement infers today. 

The Cut with Filter Musikk

As you try to wedge in another record into a collection that has outgrown its presumptuous and downright foolish dimensions, something seems to give. The DiY flatpack ikea record shelf/DJ-platform/speaker-balancer shows its true integrity and buckles like a politician caught in a lie. You consider your fate, being crushed under the weight of a record collection, you’ve barely had a chance to play once and see the headlines flash: “obscure knob-twiddler dies under the weight of archaic hobby.” Be honest… would you have it play out any other way? Didn’t think so…

For while there it seemed pointless to maintain this little feature. It seemed after the pandemic even more people shifted away from the format. Labels that had staunchly dedicated to vinyl were now cropping up in different guises on Bandcamp. The people that bought the records concealed themselves in darkened rooms, illuminated by the sickly glow of computer screens.  Suddenly vinyl-DJs were showing up to sets with fanny packs rather than record bags; their previously carved right biceps, flapping in the wind with barely any resistance.

Resistance to the 21st century’s technology finally seemed futile, but as we started opening up again the truly determined emerged, unfazed and stronger in their stubborn pursuit of their love for vinyl. 

In a small city like Oslo, they’ve only consolidated into what can be described as a tribal cult. There’s nothing really social or network-like about it, and except perhaps for the acknowledging nod or brief greeting, the introverted nature of the people and this pastime is very much a solitary affair for most. The dedication however is unparalleled and as the majority turn further away, the vinyl collectors and enthusiasts have only become more entrenched.

We’re on a precipice of the unknown as factors like the environmental impact and the rising costs of production take precedent, but that has only fortified their efforts with more selective tastes and selective outlets informing these tastes. There are few selective outlets that can be trusted to share the enthusiasm, and fewer still that will truly alleviate at least some of that burden of potential unwanted additions to overgrown record collections. Luckily, in Oslo we have Filter Musikk

Filter Musikk continues to be the holy grail for record enthusiasts in the city and a bastion of good tastes regardless of style or genre. In recent times its tastes have expanded from proprietor Roland Lifjell to the next generation of tastemakers, Sverre Brand and Erik Fra Bergen (Sagittarii Acid) who’ve started to become regular fixtures behind the counter.  They are carrying the baton for vinyl to its next phase and when I send an email to ask Roland where his particular tastes might lie in this week’s selection, I’m pleased to receive a reply from his younger counterparts. It’s the cut with Filter Musikk

Catch Roland Lifjell and Filter Musikk next week in the Sauna 

 

Indio – Phoenix (Detroit Dancer) 12”

It’s John Beltram in a feisty mood. Adorning his Indio alias, the legendary US producer, steps out of the ambient realm into a Techno prototype. The melody remains central with a bubbling loop that refuses to resign. Machines stutter along involuntarily, building through to the inevitable tension supplied by ecstatic strings that evaporate into the ether towards the end. 

It’s Detroit at its best, taking a page out the original pioneers, bolstered in the clarity of modern technology. ERP sends it to the future, on an electro-beat in his rework of the track, while Stryke brings that humid Miami vibe to the fore. Both remixers retain that melodic appeal of the original, but while E.R.P puts his mark on there with a skipping 808 kick, Stryke subdues it in the presence of a bouncing booty bass. 

 

Acid Synthesis – Acidwerk (Planet 303) 12”

Aceed! What else would you expect from an Acid Synthesis record called Acidwerk on a label called planet 303? I’ve hardly heard a 303 sing so sonorously. It takes a certain dedication to maintain this level of discipline for a sub-genre in the way that Keith Farrugia does it here for this project and this record. 

There’s no sample-pack-pick-mix at work here as the producer manipulates the 303 around grooves that truly show the vast expanse that the Acid genre can cover. From the practically-coined, dance-floor focussed Acid to the melodically-rich craftsmanship of the Acidwerk there’s a little bit of everything for a variety of music heads to dip their toe into. Even though titles like these leave little to the imagination, the songs – and they are songs – are rich in depth, with a sterile sheen covering the textures of tracks. 

Acid Synthesis and Keith Farrugia’s other projects remind us very much of the quality and versatility of E.R.P/Covextion’s work and, thanks to Erik and Sverre, definitely an artist we’ll want to hear more of in the future. 

 

Tim Reaper / Dwarde – Shiftpitchers / Not Afraid (Beyond Electronix)  12”

There’s definitely been something in the air when it comes to Drum n Bass and Jungle lately. It’s been on a few lips over the last couple of years, and a few lips we wouldn’t have expected it on. It’s having a moment and not in that hyper commercialised way of a few years back, but more rootsy and sincere. 

As with anything, it’s always hard to make that distinction between good and bad versions of a new encounter with a genre, but it seems people are garnering more discerning tastes when it comes to Drum n Bass and Jungle these. Those stadium metallic sounds, that borrowed heavily from the likes of Skrillex are dwindling with the attitude and sounds of the roots of this music stepping more into focus. 

This is the case for this 12” split from Furthur Electronix imprint Beyond Electronix. Tim Reaper and Dwarde, two artists that have been working together since 2012-ish, appear on  their latest, which happily falls into that good category when it comes to the genre . Between the heavy breaks and crushing bass, these tracks deliver in their own unique way. While Dwarde channels those soulful, sample-based inclinations of the genre’s origins, Reaper seems to fold in the entire history of UK bass music  and soundsystem culture with elements of dub and reggae weaving through the energetic rhythms. 

The too-pristine metallic-nature of a lot of modern DnB and Jungle is replaced by a chaotic and rich anthropomorphic noise.

 

DJ Backspace – Blackout (Altered Sense) 12″

It used to be called intelligent dance music or braindance, but It was always Techno. I guess because people had no handle on how this music was created in the beginning they thought people like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher were electronic music savants. It’s more likely they hardly had any idea what the results were going to be themselves when they pressed play on their machines in trying to emulate what they were hearing from Detroit.

It was and is, simply Techno, but as the term Techno itself gets modified and commercialised, we need something to distinguish this form of Techno from what most people associate with Techno today… you know, those people. While the terms Braindance or IDM still sit awkwardly on the tongue for most, it makes a good case for separating the wheat from the chaff on this record. 

Broken beats and glitching synthesisers find an elusive middle ground here as stark melodies and jaunty atmospheres forge through random arrangements. There’s a human touch interspersed throughout brazen computers vying for the listener’s attention. In a manner that reflects the best of that dichotomy, DJ Backspace delivers four engrossing tracks. 

The Electro-leaning rhythms and spastural melodic work counterpoints wonderfully against the barbed playfulness of the breakcore elements. “Electromo” and “C.I.T.Y” exemplify the best of these worlds, while “Blackout” and “New Experience Of Living” offer something more rugged and challenging, if only a little. 

 

DJ Fett Burger – Astral Solar, Edge of Galaxy, Planetary Exploration (Sex Tags)  12”

It’s all about the remixes on this one. Consolidating the digital releases from Fett Burger’s Digitalized Planet B in 2020 to vinyl, DJ Fett Burger gets these tracks on their intended  format. 

Astral Solar and Planetary Exploration is unmistakable Fett Burger; that eccentric versatility core to his work as he moves between the collage-House of Astral Solar to the galaxial- Electro of Planetary Exploration. While these tracks have made the rounds since their initial release in 2020, the attention on this record turns to  it is his own jackin’ take on Edge of Galaxy and SVN’s downtempo treatment of Planetary Exploration.

The Bad Booy Lenght V.IIbe PTX take on Edge of Galaxy is bass-heavy killer,  switching between filtered breaks and drumline snares with synthesised bass dragging the whole thing down to murky depths. Submerging the listener in a frothy wake of low-end frequencies ebbing through the track in lysergic movements. It digs deep trenches with its slow groove, only perhaps lagged by the tempo of SVN’s interpretation of Planetary Exploration.

A downtempo electro masterpiece retaining all the appeal of the original, but presenting it as this not-quite-ambient synthwave track. Filters gape in stifled breaths, giving the track an  organic pulse, moving slowly across the rhythmic beat. 



Star Gazing with George FitzGerald

I didn’t want to talk about the pandemic. For something that consumed two years of our lives and continues to take its toll, most of us –  and I’m sure George FitzGerald included – want to put it behind us. Its gravitational pull remains strong however and every conversation with artists and DJs I’ve had lately seems to skirt the event horizon of this cultural blackhole. Inevitably, our conversation too, falls headfirst into the subject and it’s the context of FitzGerald’s latest LP, Stellar Drifting. “It’s not a pandemic album, by any means,” insists FitzGerald, “but it’s impossible to separate that time from the music, because how could it not.” 

“At the beginning of the pandemic, A lot of people thought, ‘cool I’m gonna write my masterpiece now’ and then it went on for so long.” Stellar Drifting is not that type of album and the artist wouldn’t pander to these illusions. Like most, he “found sitting alone in a room on his own,” during the pandemic “isn’t that conducive to writing music. You kind of need the stimulus of going out and meeting people and having new life experiences.” He found “watching Tiger king and making sourdough bread, before hitting the studio” didn’t have quite the same inspirational effect  so while much of Stellar Drifting was finished during the pandemic, it doesn’t tap into the solemn and introspective concepts that mark those now-stereotypical “pandemic” albums.

Back in 2018, before the pandemic, George FitzGerald was cementing a new phase in his career as an album artist with his determined sophomore record, All that must be, blazing a trail ahead from his dance floor roots. He was touring the album with a live band, playing as far afield as Morocco and the USA on the back of the record and the remix album that followed. Clash magazine, for one, called All that Must be “a simply gorgeous listen, one that displays a striking producer operating in full confidence,” at the time, with that confidence establishing George FitzGerald as an album artist. 

Stellar Drifting however is no carbon copy of his last record. Instead, it marks another evolutionary notch in his sonic approach to the album. “It’s subtly different” from his last, he confirms, but it’s hard to pinpoint from the listener’s perspective. The expansive melodic and harmonic textures, gathering around stoic club-inspired rhythms remain central to his work, with the artist claiming that the whole album is “a little more major key, a bit more positive” than the last. “I wanted a broader palette harmonically than I have done in the past” and that also meant changing his approach to the creative process. “I went down a rabbit hole thinking how does my art matter in this world – what place does largely instrumental dance music have in a world where so much is going wrong?”

Relying on the tried and tested tactics from the “old friends” that constituted the familiar synthesisers and drum machines in the studio, wouldn’t suffice for this new creative pursuit. Instead FitzGerald turned his focus to “trying to build sound in different ways.” … And for that he looked to the stars for answers.  

“Building synthesiser oscillators from photos (from Nasa space probes)” George FitzGerald found new textures, but more importantly new ways to “give the sound some meaning.” He asked himself: “What would it sound like if you took this photo of a nebula from the Hubble telescope and loaded it into Ableton?” And while the listener might still only hear what sounds like a synthesised pad or a bassline, FitzGerald revels in the fact that “50% of that is made of something like a nebula or Jupiter.”

Listening to Cold, the second single from the LP, there’s a warmth there that usurps its title and the origins of the album’s theme. Deep bass-lines swell, alluding to George’s dance floor roots, while melodies enchant, pulling the listener through starry atmospheres. It’s music that sits in that elusive realm of electronic music between a set of headphones and a club dance floor, where George FitzGerald occupies a space amongst other boundary-defying luminaries, like Caribou and Bonobo. There’s a moment on Cold however when everything seems to slow down, and a chopped vocal sample emerges in the stark mix during one the song’s quieter moments. It’s instantly familiar as Geroge FitzGerald, and in the wave of the deep bass that surrounds it, I’m suddenly transported back to 2012, when I first encountered the artist’s music and his breakout record, Child.

Hea had already cut his chops with six singles and EPs to date for labels like Hotflush and AUS before Child seemed to propel him to a whole new level. It seemed impossible to escape the magnitude of the record at that time, especially in the UK. It was being played in bars and clubs all over London, long before it was released. “That track changed a lot of stuff for me,” reminisces FitzGerald. “I have good memories of it.” It’s a track that still holds its own today. The chopped vocal, the keys, and the warm bass simply seems to roll through you, energising an ephemeral spirit in the pit of your stomach. 

Child came at a time of great experimentation in the UK’s club music scene. In the post-Dubstep landscape, artists and DJs like Ben UFO, Joy O, Blawan, Midland and George FitzGerald were advancing to new territories  in electronic club music, with Dubstep’s deep and tumultuous bass, and experimental attitudes informing new styles of House, UK Garage, Techno and Electro coming out of the region. Later these artists and DJs would all go “off into slightly different directions,” with more focussed pursuits towards traditional genres and styles, but for a moment the UK was buzzing with a creative air in the context of club music, and George FitzGerald was a part of it. He produced Child as a “deep house track made off the cuff,” while holding court over the Deep House section of a record store he worked, but it impressed on the scene and the DJ circuit a different approach to Deep House, one a fair few attempted to mimic. 

“That was fun for a bit,” reminisces FitzGerald, “but honestly that’s not what I wanted starting off.” As the other artists from the post-dubstep scene grew and moved into different directions, so did he. “I stopped writing music for club sets a long time ago.” Never really one to write “four tunes in a day,” he was always looking for something more substantial in his music, and for him the album format had always seemed like this intangible purpose of his pursuits, perhaps even planting that initial seed to the questions,” how does my art matter in this world.”

“I always wanted to see if I could do it”, he says about the idea that spurned on his first album, Fading Love. “When I started, the thought of writing a ten track album on my own, it just seemed insane,” but it turned out to be something he instinctively mastered. Fading Love was an immediate success. The Guardian called it  “an intimate and beautifully textured record” and it went some way in establishing a nascent crossover success. The benchmark he’d set himself it seemed had been achieved. “I really enjoyed the process,” and the confidence set him on a path, leading up to today and his latest album, Stellar Drifting.

In his continuous evolution through these records as an artist, George FitzGerald has emerged as a more-than-capable song-writer, on par with his technical skill as a producer. Over the last couple of records, the cut up vocals have matured into fully rounded pop songs with guest vocal appearances, from the likes of Tracey Thorne on All that Must Be and Panda Bear on Stellar Drifting validating FitzGerald’s song-writing skills. “I wanted to scratch the itch of writing songs,” he says. It’s an itch that has been with him since adolescence, listening to the likes of Gary Numan and Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins.

“A lot of people have asked me about the Billy Corgan influence,” he says with a laugh when I pry. “The funny thing is that when you’re fifteen for six months you’re a Garage kid, and then suddenly you’re like ‘I’m just gonna start dressing differently and go watch the Smashing Pumpkins” when youthful “tribal” instincts kick in. “The thing with Billy Corgan is he’s obviously an amazing song-writer, but there’s also this other gothic side to him. There’s this kind of grandeur to the best Smashing Pumpkins stuff and I’ve always loved that.“ FitzGerald suggests you can hear those “maximalists” elements in his first single from the new album, Ultraviolet with its cascading arrangements and bold orchestration. 

It’s certainly the furthest, I’ve heard George FitzGerald travel from his dance -floor roots, and I’m curious how he would channel a track like that into a DJ set, and the answer is unsurprisingly, he wouldn’t. “I find it quite difficult,” he says about making his album pieces work in his sets. On the rare occasion he might try to accommodate a request, he’s all too aware of the “rules in clubs” and the “ways of directing energy” through a set. He started out as a DJ after all, and while he might not consider it a central node to his artistic identity today, it’s still very much there and it makes for a welcomed change to his live sets. “Djing is just a really nice counterpoint. It’s very spontaneous and a lot less heavy than a live show.” 

Most significantly it’s a way of maintaining that connection to club music and the dance floor. “Writing albums doesn’t reconnect you with audiences and clubbing, and what got you into the music in the first place, like DJing.” It’s something that he was particularly aware of during the pandemic. “What I missed; travelling around and meeting new people and going to new places, was a really important part of how I write my music, I didn’t know that before.” He hadn’t been gigging much during the pandemic and after, as he was finishing off the album, and before that he’d mainly been focussed on his live sets. Through DJing, in part, he’s looking to “get that connection back with a scene.”

“Weirdly” he says, he’s “quite desperate to release an EP” too, going full circle back to his roots after a trio of albums. Stellar Drifting will arrive four years after his last, “and that in modern music is an age,” FitzGerald muses. Not that long ago it would’ve been considered a come-back record, but for an artist like George FitzGerald who is “always evolving as an artist,” it’s another evolutionary step. “So much has happened since the last record and the world is completely different,” and it’s only natural for these elements to feed into the growth of the artist. Whether he’ll eventually receive an answer to his question: “does my art matter in this world?” after the release of the album, remains to be seen, but one thing is certain; it would certainly matter in the context of George FitzGerald’s artistic legacy. 

The ultimate facilitator: Q&A with Pete Herbert

Pete Herbert has been a dedicated statesman for all things electronic music since the 1990’s. He came to the fore during the heyday of House and Acid in the UK, starting out as a pusher and consumer of the music. Working in record stores like Daddy Kool from a young age, music and Djing was an early pursuit. 

Eventually he established his own record store in the form of Atlas records, along with some friends on London’s infamous vinyl alley, where people like Andrew Weatherall would frequent and haunt the record store’s well-stocked shelves. Pete and the crew would curate an esoteric assemblage of electronic music treasures informed by the sounds of the underground at the time.

Moonlighting as a DJ, Pete Herbert cut his teeth in some of the world’s most legendary booths at the same time. Fabric, Ministry Of Sound, 333, The Blue Note and Sancho Panza at Notting Hill Carnival, were some of the legendary spots he called home. It was a time when the DJ was still a facilitator and you were only ever as good as your record collection. He eventually moved on from the record store  to a full-time career from the DJ booth by the beginning of the new millennium.

He’s a well-traveled patron of the artform, with residencies in some of the farthest flung corners of the world. For a little over a decade Pete has spent the winter months based in Bali as the music director for Potato Head Beach Club. From Bali as his base, he’s played all over south-east Asia, expanding on the exotic sounds of his early balearic pursuits both as a DJ and an artist. 

As an artist, Pete Herbert’s discography is formidable, well into three digits with original material and remixes for some esteemed colleagues, like Optimo and Röyksopp dotting his extensive efforts. When he’s not making music, he’s proliferating it; from his early days, working record stores in London, to establishing record labels. From Maxi Discs to his latest, Music for Swimming Pools – a sunset mix series turned label – these labels build and perpetuate the sound he’s cultivated as a DJ and artist with those initial balearic sounds remaining a key influence in his interpretations of House music. 

He’s enjoyed an extensive and prominent career, and with a visit to Jaeger looming, we shot him a few questions over email, to learn more about those early years in London’s vinyl alley, his music, origins and his work as a true facilitator.  

Pete Herbert lands at Jaeger this Friday

Hello Pete and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I imagine you had quite a varied musical experience growing up, having lived in Trinidad as a kid and experiencing the London music scene in the eighties. How do you think it affected your tastes as a DJ early on?

Hello Jaeger and firstly thanks for inviting me to your fine establishment, I can’t wait!

Yes I would say my older sisters musical taste and growing up in Trinidad then Eighties London suburbs very much shaped my early years of music. That would have been essentially new wave and pop primarily with some Soul thrown in as I remember, then towards the mid eighties discovering pirate radio and inner London record shops got me into much wider sounds that shaped my London teens such as rare groove/ funk and hip hop and then electronic music.

Where did you eventually find your place within that larger scene?

I began working in records shops from my late teens, and would carry on doing that until into my mid thirties pretty much full time all the way, so that became my home from home. Most days were.. work in the record shop, then go to a gig or club, then another club etc, home, up then repeat.

How did you go from being a fan, to DJing yourself?

It was often the natural  progression back then when you immersed yourself in buying and selling records to that degree. Starting with warm up slots anywhere you could get them, and practicing like hell.

I would imagine that Atlas would have been a pivotal point in your life. Were you a collector/consumer before you set up shop and what was the catalyst for you wanting to open a record shop?

A collector/consumer of course first but after working in a few shops, especially the reggae shop Daddy Kool, and being exposed to the workings of it and how not to run one, the urge to do it myself was eventually too great. Plus there was a lack of a specialist shop that sold all the stuff I was into, so I saw a gap in the market shall we say.

What kind of records were you stocking and how did they inform your tastes as a DJ and eventually the music you created?

We stocked an independant cross section of leftfield house, dub, disco, electronica, jazz, techno, collections/2nd hand, and whatever else we were into that we could get hold of. We avoided any commercial releases and mainstream stuff.

There was an interesting crowd there, I believe with people like Andrew Weatherall frequenting the place. But do you think there was anything like a sound or a scene around Atlas that perhaps stood out amongst the other record shops in the street?

We never ‘pushed’ music on our customers, we offered the selection and would recommend stuff .. but otherwise we shunned the record shop ego nonsense that was rife back then.

Leaving the record stores behind, did you find that getting away from that world had any effect on your experience as a DJ and music enthusiast?

By the time I closed the shop and then worked in a few others, the way you got music and played it had already started to change. CDJS were starting to appear in venues and WAVS and AIFFS were taking over from DATs. You could get emailed promos, burn cds etc, so If you were open to embracing new technology you could benefit from it. But what that meant was a real vacuum left by the demise of the record shops as a focal point/community for many record buyers that was never replaced in the same way. I think it affected a lot of djs and buyers at the time.

Besides residencies at places like Fabric and Ministry of Sound, you have  also been a booker for Bali’s Potato Head. How do you see the role of the club in relation to this music, and how has it changed in your opinion?

Music and its delivery are still the pivotal point to the club for me, whether the club has changed and is now an event or happening. Getting the right balance isn’t always easy though. Potato Head in Bali was an amazing venue, so the music had to live up to that.

It seems that new scenes are less-likely to be built around a club today and more likely to be built around the internet. As a DJ, a producer, record label owner, and previous record store owner what effect do you believe this has had on the music?

I think a club can offer a place for people to feel inclusion and a sense of belonging. So that you might feel you could go there regardless of knowing who’s playing/what night it is. That for me is the sign of a good club. I know if I go there I will feel welcome, the music programming is thought through and the sound is spot on, nice staff etc. That is a scene right there for me..

For some time now, you’ve been doing Music for Swimming Pools. It’s an intriguing project, can you tell us a bit more about it?

MFSP started as a radio show maybe 14 or so years ago on Ibiza radio station Sonica. I was out there a fair bit djing and guesting on it regularly and it progressed from there. It was an outlet for me to play non dancefloor sets of an emotive/electronic/balearic nature and a few years later became its own free 24/7 streaming platform.  With no jingles or chat, It plays a continual mix of that sound that can be accessed anytime and place. It’s quite low key without any advertising or fanfare and I’ve recently relaunched the label side of it, with a new EP from me due out the night I play in Jaeger. You can check the site here: 

https://musicforswimmingpools.co.uk

Besides being a facilitator, you’ve released something like 400 records and counting. What keeps you motivated in the studio, and how do you believe your music has changed since those first records in the mid nineties?

I guess I’m just still as obsessed with music as I was as a collector, then as a seller, then playing it and making it. I would hope my production skills have come on a bit in the last decade or so, though I’ve never had any formal training. Maybe that has been the key to being so prolific. I’m not quite the perfectionist many studio trained producers are, I’m more of a pragmatist shall we say.

Balearic is something that often gets associated with your music, based perhaps on the downtempo and eclectic nature of your music. Is there perhaps a singular objective when you create original music and what if anything continues to inform your approach?

I find inspiration for production in the music I collect and go digging for every week.  Be it an old 70’s obscure album or a brand new producer’s first release. The approach for me is usually the aim of an end product I would play out or happily listen to lying on a beach.

You have a lot of experience playing in different venues across different parts of the world. How does a place or location affect what you pack in your bag for the night and how do you think that will go when you come to Jaeger?

Luckily I have been in Jaeger before as a punter, and actually quite recently too, so I know a little bit what Jaeger is all about, and that counts for a lot. I know I will be made to feel very welcome, that the music programming is thought through and the sound is spot on, and they have nice staff. For me that’s the perfect kind of environment to play music in. See you there.

 

Building connections with Lara Palmer

In the spectrum of Techno’s expansive history, we’re living in an age of supremacy for the genre. More popular today than the previous height of success in the late nineties, its adulation is only really surpassed by its more accessible cousin, Tech-House. It’s a golden age for Techno, with everything from brutalist marching rhythms to soulful dub inclinations broadening the scope of the genre. Being a fan is no longer a singular pursuit, with individual tastes as varied as the people that follow them.

With so many new artists and DJs coming to the genre, each with their own approach and style of playing and making music, there’s a subjectivity that arises and it takes a unique individual to come to the fore in this landscape. Lara Palmer is such an individual. A DJ, music writer and editor for mnmt.no she arrives at the genre with a sense of objectivity that few are able to concede in their activities in Techno.

A DJ that avoids the ubiquitous DJ/producer tag and a writer that avoids the perilous cavern of reviews in favour of proliferating artistic voices, Lara is a distinctive entity in today’s musical landscape. A  Norwegian/German, who spent some time in Norway in her youth, she’s done her bit in securing that ineffable bridge between Norway and Berlin in music. Alongside factions like flux collective, techno kjelleren, ute.rec, and all the raves happening around the forests each summer, Norway’s occupations with Techno have seen the genre’s popularity grow exponentially in the last few years.

Lara and her work through mnmt as a blog, event series and festival have played no small part in growing appreciation for the genre. As writer and editor, she continues to shine a light on the great producers of the genre, while as a DJ she avidly supports the scene by buying the records and distributing it to anybody that will listen. 

She arrives at Jaeger next Friday to play alongside SGurvin in the basement so we turned the tables on her for a bit of Q&A time with our next guest. We talked to her about influences, her love of Techno and drawing the line between music writer and DJ. 

Hey Lara. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. What is your earliest memory of a piece of music?

The earliest one must be my mother singing Norwegian lullabies to me. I also have vivid childhood memories of music by Édith Piaf, Caetano Veloso, Jan Garbarek or Glenn Gould playing on the stereo at home. I remember being quite captivated by it.

I played classical violin throughout my school days, but did not really like practising on my own. I much rather enjoyed playing in the orchestra, building a body of sound together. This might have been some of my first experiences of people being gathered in a room filled to the brim with frequencies, something I have been drawn to ever since. 

 What was your introduction to electronic- and club music? Has it always been about Techno, and what first drew you to the sounds of the genre? 

I started getting interested in electronic music around age 14/15, when I was living in a small city in Northern Norway. (I grew up in Berlin, but lived in Mo i Rana between age 11 and 15.) We were a group of friends that were somewhat nerdy about music, spending many hours on Myspace, exchanging playlists or wandering around the quiet streets with our headphones on, listening to stuff like Kim Hiorthøy, Ratatat, Xploding Plastix, 120 days or The Knife. We also listened to a lot of indie bands, and I remember especially liking stuff where synths were involved.   

When I moved back to Berlin and started going out – to open airs around the city, the so-called Sexy Döner parties, Club der Visionäre and Fusion festival – I gradually listened more and more closely to the music being played. That interest never let me go again, but it was first during the time I lived in Oslo to study and worked at The Villa on the weekends, that I became able to clearly distinguish what I actually resonated with genre wise, which evolved towards what I would call minimalistic, atmospheric and trippy techno.  

You say you’re drawn to the atmospheric, minimalist and trippy sounds. What are some of your influences and touchstones for this kind of sound?

Even though he plays varied, in my opinion Freddy K is a great example of the stripped back, no-fuss kind of techno I enjoy most. Mike Parker and Markus Suckut have perfected a minimalist approach when it comes to production, each in their own way. In terms of atmosphere and trippiness I can mention Dasha Rush, Jane Fitz, Sandwell District, Rødhåd, Yogg, Synthek or natural/electronic.system. as some of the artists that have left a strong impression on me.       

As a trained musician, did you slip into DJing with ease and what were some of the main obstacles in the transition from a music lover to a DJ? 

I did my first attempts at DJing using timecode vinyl and CDJs, and struggled a little with those media. When I switched to vinyl, I found it easier to build the sort of connection to and understanding of the music playing that is helpful for DJing. (Thanks to Korpex who provided the time and space for me to get introduced to the craft!) My musical ear trained by years of conscious listening was surely helping, but I think practice helps even more – and I still have a great deal of that to do.  

Do you have any aspirations to make music?

In an ideal world I would, but at this moment in my life I do not feel that I can prioritise it.

You’re not only a DJ and admirer, but you’re also a writer and editor who proliferates this music through your work at mnmt.no. How did you get into that aspect of music?

I have enjoyed writing for a long time, and am a social and cultural anthropologist by training. So researching, interviewing and writing about interesting people, trying to get across a glimpse of an artist’s world is simply very inspiring. If it helps them promote their art, it gives me a sense of purpose.

More specifically, I started writing for Monument five years ago, when I bumped into a part of the crew at a festival in the Spanish mountains and they needed someone to edit the review of it.

How does that aspect of your life and work influence what you do in the booth or your musical tastes?

Being part of the collective gives me a frame to develop within, and a community of like-minded people to share thoughts and ideas. Of course it influences my focus of listening, but there is not a complete overlap between the sub genres of techno associated with Monument and what I like the most, so there is always room to explore different avenues. 

How do you maintain a sense of objectivity as a fan and DJ of this music when you are writing about it or presenting it via Monument?

Listening is a very personal experience, so when music is concerned, maintaining a sense of objectivity is difficult. To circumvent this, I have for instance very rarely written reviews. I prefer interviews, where I can stay in the background, letting the artists speak. Yet my subjectivity will always be part of the exchange somehow.  

You seem to spend your time between Berlin and Oslo. How do these two cities influence how you might approach a set?

I live in Berlin but visit Oslo regularly. I don’t think the city itself influences my approach too much, I rather think about the room I will be playing in and think about what could fit the setting. 

While Berlin is the epicentre for Techno, Oslo’s certainly found an idiosyncratic scene in recent years. How do you distinguish the sound and style of these two places and where do you think they share a common ground today?

I would say that the Oslo scene has “traditionally” been dominated by house and disco, but has become increasingly receptive to techno in recent years – even though it is hard to judge from a distance. But since I moved back to Berlin six years ago, I somehow got the impression that there are more artists and crews popping up beyond the Oslo-disco/house-continuum. Another sign of good health is the Ute.Rec crew, who do really inspired stuff that you maybe would not expect from Oslo.  

Pinning down a specific sound or style of Berlin is hard because here you have literally everything. What might bind it all together though could be the urge to constantly push towards new territories.

Berlin is such a mecca for a vinyl enthusiast. Where do you like to go to find music to DJ, and what preferences do you have when it comes to buying old vs new? 

I have found many great records – old and new – at Spacehall over the years. A more recent discovery has been The Consulate, a hidden place run by three Belgians. Bikini Waxx is great for finding used gems. 

What do you look for in a track to make into one of your sets?

There is of course a certain frame given by the kind of aesthetic I like, but in the end I chose a track if I can hear an artistic inspiration behind it and if it speaks to me. Either it clicks or it does not. On the other hand, I often find tracks on records I bought quite some time ago for other reasons that I suddenly enjoy very much, so I think what you perceive in a track has a lot to do with the state you are in at a specific moment.

Any secret/not-so-secret weapons that will be making it in your bag on the way to Norway?

 You can expect anything from this

 to this



A beautiful thing with Roman Flügel

You don’t simply dip into Roman Flügel’s discography. The Frankfurt artist has been nothing short of prolific. Whether working alongside Jörn Elling Wuttke on the myriad of projects, ranging from Acid Jesus to Alter Ego, or his own extensive solo discography (under some more aliases), there is an expansive undertaking awaiting those willing to venture into Roman Flügel’s catalogue. In a career stretching a little over three decades, including his collaborations with Wuttke, his work has become seminal touchstones through the various epochs of club music.

You wouldn’t assume that from his demeanour. Humble and friendly, he’s accommodating when we sit down for a conversation in the bar at Jaeger. A regular visitor to our club, we’ve come to know Roman as one of the nicest DJs to pass through our booth. He cuts a striking figure. Tall with angular facial features which have only seemed to sharpen with age. Sitting across from him, it’s hard to believe Roman Flügel is 52 years old and that he’s been there since the very beginning of Techno music. “Talking about age,” he says in his familiar German accent, “I don’t think too much about it, you can’t do anything about it anyway.” He finds it “really interesting” to play alongside the next generation of DJs, and he’s quite aware that the music he buys is often made by people who “are probably younger,” but he’s only content in that fact.  “That’s the way it is,” he says completely deadpan, “and that’s the way it should be.” 

“Touring and what I am doing,” he continues “is something I always dreamt about. When I was young I wanted to live the exact life I’m living, so why should I complain?” 

Roman grew up in Frankfurt, coming of age in what was probably the most crucial time for Techno, not least in Roman’s hometown. While the wall was coming down in Berlin, opening up a world of music from places like Detroit, Frankfurt was experiencing its own revolution in sound, almost independently. ”It was an interesting time, because you had all these scenes in different cities,” remembers Roman. “Even cities within Germany had completely different scenes.”

As technology and intent conspired, it developed into a new musical frontier called Techno and House music, and at Frankfurt they were right there on the cusp of this new wave of music. (It’s even believed in some circles that the term Techno was coined in Frankfurt, but Roman is not so convinced.) Clubs like Dorian Gray and Omen became influential bodies in the landscape, stepping out of the sound of Belgium New Beat, New Wave, Synth Pop towards the more functional domain that these dance floors soon demanded with DJs like Talla 2XLC and Sven Väth adopting Techno and House in their sets early on. Roman Flügel was a sprightly 16 year-old when he first started frequenting Dorian Gray.

“I sneaked in with some girls I knew – You always had to go in with girls otherwise you wouldn’t come in,“ remembers Roman. The club had “no curfew”, because it was located at the airport, and Roman distinctly recalls “polishing his shoes in the airport toilets” before visits. It wasn’t a mere coincidence that Dorian Gray would be his first choice, because the club’s reputation preceded itself even then. His first taste of electronic music came via the iconic club, sometime before he even set foot in the place. 

His older brother had been a Dorian Gray regular and would bring home bootleg tapes from the club. ”People would copy sets from Dorain Gray,” he explains, “and sell them for 50 Deutsche marks.” That was a lot of money back then, but it was also the “only way to get information” about this new music according to Roman. “You would hear the music in the club and then it was gone afterwards,” so the tapes were instrumental in proliferating the sound of House and Techno at that time. 

“As a young kid, a 90min cassette would open a whole new world for me,” recalls Roman. Naturally, he started out as a “fan,” and his love for this music only solidified with time, especially after the appearance of the Omen. After Dorian Gray, “The Omen was the place for me to be,” insists Roman. As House and Techno developed out of their initial prototypes, the Omen became the “main place for House and Techno” in Frankfurt and continued to open up a new world for the young Roman. 

Although he had been playing as a drummer in a band, the lure of electronic music was stronger. Curiosity eventually got the best of him and at some point he asked himself: “how do they do this kind of music?” He started visiting local musical instrument shops, “trying synthesisers and finding out how they made the sounds” he had heard on his tapes and at these clubs. Eventually he thought; “Maybe I should use a drum machine instead of being a drummer” and his fate was sealed.

The rhythm remained central to dance music’s appeal for Roman as he found a new outlet through the sound of machines. He started putting his efforts to demo tapes via a four track recorder in a bedroom at his parent’s house, playing them to friends who would orbit the same indie bars he would haunt at that time. Eventually somebody told Roman: “You better give one of your demo tapes to Jörn (Elling Wuttke) because he has a better studio than you at your parent’s house. He has a studio at his grandfather’s house in the garage!” Jörn was a singer and guitarist in a band that moved in the same musical circles as Roman, and the pair quickly found a common ground between their creative personalities. 

“It’s always a different dynamic when you start to have an interaction,” remarks Roman about their working relationship. “Things become very tense and at the same time very different. Somethings would pop up that you would have never created on your own.“ They started bringing their demos to their local record store Delirium, another iconic name in the early Frankfurt scene, run by ATA – long before he moved on to establish legendary Frankfurt club, Robert Johnson – and Heiko Schäfer. “They liked them a lot” and put out the first Acid Jesus record, cementing a production partnership that lasted over 15 years and went through many different guises from Acid Jesus to Alter Ego during the course of their career. 

Why all these … alter egos? “It’s a bit strange, ja” Roman agrees. “The beginning of an era, you would have a lot of different people asking you to put out a record on their label, but then they would ask for a different name“ to perhaps distinguish their label from another that the artist might also appear on. It did “become very complicated at some point,” but it was all consolidated as Alter Ego eventually in the early 2000’s at what was probably the pinnacle of their success together. 

Alter Ego had been around as a project for almost as long as Roman and Jörn had been working together, but as they stepped out of the nineties into the next millennium, the sound of the project changed and suddenly made an incredible impact on the scene and beyond. For an entire generation it was Alter Ego and specifically the track Rocker that brought people to the work of Roman Flügel. The gnawing synthesisers and accessible melody of the track was the perfect crossover point from guitars to synthesisers at a time when rock music’s dominance was finally waning. Arriving at the time of electroclash, it brought a whole new, and different kind of audience to club music.

We were amazed by the success of the record,” says Roman. “It was a crazy time,” for them with world tours and notoriety following Rocker and the album, Transformer. “The rooms became bigger and bigger” as they rode the success of that record, sustained by a newfound popularity for electronic dance music. “After that electronic dance music became super big, especially in the US,” remembers Roman “but we weren’t taking part in that mega-success, we were at the edge of it.” It was a double-edged sword however and although Rocker was somehow the peak of our success, at the same time “it was the end of our studio-working relationship,” says Roman, looking back. The intensity had exhausted both Roman and Jörn. “At a certain point when you play your own music all the time, it becomes quite tiring. We didn’t have the power to reinvent ourselves.”

Amicably and cordially, Jörn and Roman went their separate ways. In their time together they had accomplished what most established artists only dreamed. Successful records, touring on an international stage, and remix and production credits for everybody, from Sven Väth to The Human League, all the while maintaining the elusive connection to the underground purists. There wasn’t anywhere else they could go, and it was up to Roman to reinvent himself, now working under his eponymous moniker. 

He continued to work on dance floor focussed 12” with the purpose of something to “play as a DJ,” but at the same time there came a shift in his approach to albums. “I think especially after I finished working with Alter Ego back in the day,” confirms Roman. “That was a very dance floor oriented project for many years” and Roman wanted to take a step back from that, especially in the longer format. “My solo albums; all of them are more a listening experience for different environments than clubs.” 

Three albums for Dial records; a conceptual audioscape for ESP; and his official debut on Frankfurt label Running Back, constitutes this period of albums over the last decade. From the minimal incantations of those Dial records to the lush ambient and break beat constructions of his latest, Eating Darkness, these records sound and feel like you’re at the entrance of a club; that moment you’re about to step through the doors. The rhythms take on abstract forms with only the faint glimmer of their four-four roots peaking through the shadows. 

I suggest to Roman that even when he is not pursuing those impulses, the dance floor still echoes through even the most ambient incantations of a record like Eating Darkness. “It’s stored deep in my brain,” he agrees. Roman Flügel has an incredible instinct for this music. Over the course of 30 years, it’s been deeply ingrained. “It happens naturally,” and “it’s not conscious” on his part. “I use bits and pieces that I’ve heard in my life before,” he continues and when I suggest that I can hear glimmers of that first Warp 69 record through Eating Darkness, he merely gives a wry chuckle. I’m not sure if it’s the reference or perhaps that there is indeed a red thread between a song like “Jocks and Freaks”(2021) and “Floating”(1992) that has amused him, but it says something of the work that has, and continues to stay the test of time.

There’s an elusive quality that even underpins his collaborative works with Jörn, and it has a broader appeal than most dance floor records. Whether it’s your first experience with Alter Ego’s Rocker or finding a new favourite record in the form of Acid Jesus’ Interstate 10 years after that, no-matter where your finger lands, there’s bound to be a record and sometimes even a period where Roman Flügel has been either a significant or pivotal figure on the electronic music scene ordained for clubs.

Even as our conversation winds down, he talks about re-issues of records that I’ve never heard of before. “Tracks on delivery” stands out amongst these not merely for their rarity on Discogs, but the fact that the re-issue will see Roman Flügel playing live again, for the first time since his Alter Ego days. It evokes a memory of seeing an age-less Roman Flügel peering over a computer screen at Fabrikken in Oslo for Sunkissed around 2007. It’s that image I see later again in our basement on the day of our interview. He seems happier, somewhat more content behind the decks than the screen. The crowd, most of whom are younger, is reciprocating and I’m reminded of something he told me earlier that day. “It’s a beautiful thing to travel and play music and meet interesting people.”

We’ll keep flying the banner

We’ll stay open tonight to show our support for Oslo’s LGBTQI++ community

In light of the a heinous attack on Oslo’s LGBTQI++ community outside of London Pub, our first thoughts are with the victims and their families. We are completely lost for words and perplexed that something like this can still happen in 2022, but we want to send a message of support for all those affected by this act.

As a club built on the foundations of House music, we’re all too aware of the history and legacy of the queer community on our scene. We always try to honour and respect those roots in everything that we do, and when we hear about an attack like this we feel it on a personal level.

So, considering the events and based on the information we’ve received thus far from the authorities, we’ve taken the decision to stay open tonight in a show of solidarity. After discussing it at length with our staff, our security team, Oslo’s city council and some of the other venues in town, we are planning to remain open with the scheduled programme to offer some support for this community and do our utmost to allow a safe space for Oslo’s LGBTQI++ community.

We have been informed by a member of the city council that extra precautions are in place and while they had to cancel a high-profile event like Pride, they have assured us that the smaller events will and should go on.

The incident, which from the information we’ve received thus far, seems to be an isolated occurrence. We feel, as House music club we have a certain obligation to the queer community to offer a safe space for all. We don’t further want to legitimise these ignorant assaults of discrimination in this scene, city and country. We will take extra steps to keep everybody safe, and we urge people to stay vigilant, especially as they make their way through town.

We’ll keep monitoring the situation and update this website if there are any changes or new information. Stay safe.

 

Sexy Music with James Hillard from Horse Meat Disco

We speak to Horse Meat Disco’s James Hillard about pork pies and voulevants, sexy music, queer nights that are open to all and the enduring legacy of Disco.

“Vi skal sees,” says James Hillard at the end of our phone call. I pause, not knowing if I heard him correctly; the Horse Meat Disco DJ is English, afterall. He shoots off another couple of sentences in practised Swedish too fast for my poor second-language Norwegian to catch. “I speak some Swedish,” he says, expecting my surprise. As a student he took up the language on a “totally random” impulse decided by chance. “I literally took out a map of Europe and waved my finger over it and then landed on Sweden,” he explains with a little chuckle. James speaks a few languages in fact, and he’s something of a word-smith in the way he engages the listener.

James is easy to talk to. He is eloquent and bubbly, and even when he says he says he’s “rambling,” he’s concise, following facts with anecdotes to questions he must have heard a thousand of times before. He knows his audience, and he’s always at hand with a quip that sticks in your mind like a song lyric to quote later. He converses in the way you’d expect a Disco DJ to speak. Earnest about the details, but never taking himself too seriously with a sense of playfulness, even at the cost of being self-effacing. Isn’t that what Disco is all about and isn’t it just what Horse Meat Disco has always been about too?

Alongside Luke Howard, Jim Stanton and Severino Panzetta, James has helped install Horse Meat Disco as an international clubbing institution. Residencies in New York and Berlin; an intense touring schedule for its DJs; a radio show; and records, including mixed compilations like their latest Back to Mine contribution, have made them prominent figures on an international stage. “And we’re still there every Sunday at the Eagle,” says James jokingly. Like we needed reminding. “A queer night that is open to all,” the club night has remained unwavering in it’s spot in Vauxhall, London and continues to draw crowds on a weekly basis some twenty years on after it’s initial party.

*James Hillard and Luke Howard represent Horse meat Disco in our booth next Frædag.

It’s reached that untenable position for most club nights with its success based on the mere fact it exists. They don’t need to book headlining DJs or do much in the way of promotion; “the people come to see us,” says James. The reputation precedes the name wherever they go, extending far beyond the fairly inconspicuous roots at the Eagle to an international DJ circuit and it all started with a humorous name – taken from a newspaper article that read “Horse meat discovered” – and a very simple idea…

“Playing disco to gay boys is hardly rocket science,” says James. Up until the point Horse Meat Disco arrived on the scene “the UK club scene was circuit music,” playing what James refers to as “Tribal and House” music. “Electroclash was probably the closest thing… otherwise it was trashy music.” He and Jim Stanton established the club night in this environment back in the early 2000’s. Starting out on a Thursday night in a venue in London’s Chinatown, they eventually found their way to the Eagle (née Dukes) when they hosted a New Year’s Day party for the predominantly bear crowd. James and Jim had been regular punters at Dukes, taking advantage of the “free supply of pork pies and voulevants” at the Friday night buffets while working as poor interns for “trendy” record companies and magazines. 

“To begin with it was more like the electroclash and bear scene colliding with a few daddies thrown in,” when Horse Meat Disco arrived. “There was a feeling that we hit on something,” remembers James. There “weren’t many clubs that play that kind of music,” and especially not in gay clubs. “You heard Disco in the straight scene more than the gay scene” making James and Jim question, “why aren’t gays listening to Disco, it’s music for them?”

They stepped into the void effortlessly and called on long-time friends Luke Howard and Severino Panzetta, whose experience abetted where Jim and James’ skills as DJs were still developing. “They would be the main DJs and I would do the warm-up, and a few years later Jim started DJing” until eventually “we became a soundsystem.” Spurred on by a shared love for music from an era roughly between 1975-1985, they set in stone a sound that remains consistent, and more importantly, consistently good. 

Their latest contribution to the Back to Mine series is a testament to that sound today. The iconic DMC compilation, which re-surfaced in 2019 added Horse Meat Disco to their esteemed alumni last month. Alongside artists like Danny Tenaglia and Pet Shop Boys, Horse Meat Disco appears like it was always meant to be there. They invariably understood the assignment and delivered a mix that is all about the after-party. It’s a “reflection of things that we’d really love to play in a club, but never get a chance to, or feel it’s not appropriate to,” explains James. Slow, chugging pieces emerge throughout the compilation mix, skirting the fringes of the dance floor, often touching on some experimental plane, while never veering from that elusive common denominator which has always been, Disco. 

But why Disco, I ask James? What is it about Disco that remains so consistent and refuses to die, why does it survive to this day? “First and foremost it’s the quality,” he suggests. He believes that decade was a “peak level for musicianship, artistry, production techniques and hifi sound.” And in the current epoch, when dance music is all about tracks and beats, there’s a craft there that has only solidified over time. It’s all about “songs, emotions and release” with “great songwriting” at the heart of it all. Then again he might be biassed, his “first love was Disco.”

Growing up in a house full of records collected by his dad, who used to moonlight as a DJ, it’s assumed that James was born with Disco in his ears. He would often “sneak into the attic” and listen to his dad’s records until a time when he started collecting his own records. His first music job was in a contemporary dance music label,” but Disco remained central to his personal pursuit. Disco was and remains a “great leveller” for James but it’s also a “broad church” and can easily travel from those early organic sounds of Soul to the fast-paced electronic sequences of early House music. It’s “different things to different people” he explains. “From rock to House,” it’s always a fleeting construct and “always eclectic” but central to it all and most importantly, is that it’s “sexy music.”

And the longer Horse Meat Disco has gone on, “the… more discerning” their audience has become in terms of their tastes for this music. Tracks like “in the evening” by Sheryl Lee Ralph and “the boss” by Diana Ross have become staples and are still requested by a crowd that “has remained” consistent, albeit getting “younger” according to James. “We’ve had people play a gospel set and we‘ve had Andrew Weatherall not really playing Disco, but just doing what he does. People are receptive and as long as it’s quality music, we’re down.“

The eponymous connection aside, Horse Meat Disco’s success is also in part due to that audience they attract, and the association of Disco’s roots. As music that was, if not born from the gay community, certainly adopted as such, Disco’s connection to queer lifestyles is something that is also deeply rooted in Horse Meat Disco’s platform. the club night was one of the first nights to establish the open door policy that permeates through most clubs today; a queer night that it is open to all. It’s something we’ve witnessed more in recent years, as club culture’s popularity has been appropriated by the mainstream. But how do you define queer, in this sprwaling landscape, I wonder?

Photo of Horse meat DiscoJames doesn’t feel queer is a “sexual statement,” but rather an ideology. “I know cis straight woman who identify as queer,” he says as an example. For James, queer is about a “rejection of patriarchy” and a the celebration of “alternative lifestyles” on dance floors. “As long as they bring love and joy to the dance, then everybody is welcome,” insists James. Even though the party they “do in New York is a different crowd to the one in London and the one in Berlin is different to both of those,” that queer element remains at its core and James “loves the fact that it’s all things to all people.” Much like Disco, queer is an ideology and in many cases the music and that ideology is inseperable. 

In recent years Horse Meat Disco haven’t merely been content in capturing this spirit as a soundsystem, and have turned their attention to the recorded format. Imbibed by the sound and quality of those early Disco productions, Horse Meat Disco’s approach has been to facilitate the magic, more than create it. “We are not producers,” insists James, “we work with other people.” After years of making edits, remixes and the odd demo, they finally made the leap to becoming a fully fledged album artist back in 2020 with their debut LP, “Love and Dancing” arriving on Glitterbox. They were “sitting on the demos (for the album) for a long time,” before Luke Howard played them to Luke Solomon (classic records) who thought; “I can do something with this.”

“Love and Dancing” is a modern Disco classic, emerging on the convalescence of those old organic sounds and modern electronic wizardry. Syncopated beats move between sequenced drum machines, while bass guitars in an artificial disguise bounce through arrangements. Synthesisers whistle where expansive string sections used to reside and elements of House music live harmoniously alongside its Disco matriarch. 

Remix requests for the likes of Dua Lipa and David Holmes followed the LP, establishing the name Horse Meat Disco as a verified triple threat. Recording artist, club night, soundsystem and of course DJ collective, Horse Meat Disco commands all these facets of modern club music today. And yet, even with all these new commitments they still maintain that original Sunday night party at the Eagle. They might have the occasional stand in when they are all away on different DJ assignments, like their upcoming Pride weekend showcase in Camden’s roundhouse, but they remain the driving force behind the night and continue to draw new audiences to Horse Meat Disco on the prowess of their skills in the booth. We’ve been doing it for so long, that ”it all just kind of falls into place,” says James and that place is enshrined in club legend today. 

In the booth with Chaos in the CBD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An intense kind of feeling: The story of Skansen by g-HA & Olle Abstract

g-HA & Olle Abstract recount the story of  Skansen (public relax) and the legacy that it left on House music in and beyond Norway. It’s the story of Skansen in their words.

Skansen has left an indelible mark on Oslo’s nightlife and club culture. The space where the club used to stand is hallowed ground today and any other club that has tried to open in its place has had to live in the shadow of its monumental legacy. Skansen has played an integral part in putting Oslo’s House music scene on the map as well as exporting the sound of Norwegian House to the wider world. 

Resident DJs, g-HA and Olle Abstract alongside guests like Erot and the Idjut Boys redefined the sound of House in the region through the club as something loose and flowing, a kind of skrangle House, that has seen a scene and whole generation of artists and DJs grow up alongside it. 

In Oslo Skansen’s legacy has been installed as one of the most significant places and eras of House music in Norway and on an international scene, it’s still talked about in reverend tones. Skansen saw the world of House music descend on Oslo at the height of the genre’s popularity and the DJs, clientele and residents that passed through its doors, can still be found working in Oslo’s nightlife and music scene. 

As residents of the famous club, g-HA and Olle Abstract had played a hand in establishing a sound and a cultish legacy in Skansen; one that continues to exist in lore, and has helped establish House music in Oslo, and in some way Norway. Both are still significant figures in Norway’s DJing- and clubbing community. They continue to spread the gospel of House music in the scene, often at Jaeger while g-HA’s Skansen mix for Glasgow Underground continues to live on as a testament to the iconic sound of the time and the place.

Who better to relay the story of Skansen and this important era of House music in Norway. This is the story of Skansen as told by g-HA & Olle Abstract.

Geir and Olle DJing at Skansen

Olle Abstract: Geir and I met for the first time in ‘89 in a record store where Omar V used to work.

g-HA: In the subway station in Grønland.

O: This is the record store that would become Platekompaniet. They were always good at bringing in people that were interested in imported records. We would then bump into each other, buying records in stores like these with people like DJ Tony Anthem (Future Prophecies) also in the mix.  

g: I also used to hang out with Olle’s old roommate at their place, and I’d sneak into Olle’s room to play your records while he was away. He would get so pissed off about it. 

O: They used to play my records while I was playing at raves. I was  involved in (XS) to the rave zone, and euphoria back when Geir was still starting out as a 16 year old DJ at Marilyn (where Jaeger is today). We would all hang out together and go to Marilyn to look at the wet t-shirt show while Geir DJ’d. Then we would run back to good music at some of Oslo’s other clubs…  Geir was quite commercial back then. 

g: You had to be commercial down at Marilyn. The owner would check the VG liste every week for the latest pop charts, and you had to have those tracks. One week I didn’t have a track from the list and he fired me. 

O: Geir got involved with Matti from kings and queens after that in ‘92. The scene, the one we were involved in, it all starts around Kings and Queens. In ‘92 before the other clubs started, you had Marilyn and you had two more commercial places. 

The only place to listen to underground house music for a while was Enka, which is now Villa. Suddenly there were 100-150 people coming into Enka to listen to House music and then the scene just exploded. 

After Marilyn, Geir got a residency at Pure. It was a big club in storgate run by Yugoslavian gangsters. People like Tony De Vit  played there and they even got Geir a flat that was soundproof. 

g: Yeah with long halls with many doors  and a double shower. 

O: It was like a brothel… Geir broke Ace of Base and Faithless in Oslo at Pure, in fact he was the first DJ in Norway to play Insomnia. People took notice and eventually he teamed up with Matti from Kings and Queens, doing all these raves around town, while I was doing (XS) to the rave zone. 

This was between ‘92 – ‘94. Then Geir got picked up by Per Haave and Cecilie Hafstad  in ‘95 to help with the bookings at Skansen. 

g: Skansen was supposed to be an Internet café, but that never happened. It turned out to be  more fun doing a club.

O: It was basically a toilet that they refurbished and spent too much money on.

g: It was actually owned (and still is) by Oslo kommune who used it to store signs. Then I think Per got the idea to use the spot. 

O: The owners were a generation older than us. They were around for the first party scene in Oslo, back in 88/89. They would have been hanging out in Project in Lillestrøm when they came up with this plan for Skansen. The name Skansen actually came from an old restaurant that overlooked that hill. It was an art-deco building that was a really popular place after the war for like 20 years. They borrowed the name and called it “Skansen public relax” in the beginning  with a focus on being an Internet cafe. Then Geir came in and the computers were out. 

Picture of Skansen Restuarant

g: I kind of only helped out with the bookings in the beginning. 

O: At that point on a Friday night in Oslo, you had Headon, you had Pure, you had Christiania and one-offs on a Saturday that played House music….  then Skansen came along. 

By the time I first started there in march ‘96, it was a full blown club space and one of the few places you could hear House music. Geir had been Djing there for a few months already, and opened up the possibilities with his Footfood night on Fridays which was all about House. 

 g: I remember Paper recordings, classic records and that kind of stuff. I remember getting 10 promo records a week and playing a bit more of an English kind of club music at that point. I would take trips to London if I had a free weekend. I’d go on the first flight and come back in the evening after visiting a few of my favourite record stores.

O: Major labels were putting out House remixes on 12”. But it was the same period as Moodyman’s earliest KDJ stuff. We played a lot of that kind of stuff and the obscure British stuff that was influenced by Detroit and Disco. It was anything from Cleveland City to early Paper Recordings. There was also the whole disco end of it with London and Idjut Boys. I guess Geir wanted to play deeper in Skansen than at Pure and it started developing this sound as a club.

g: I can’t remember how long it was an Internet cafe before it eventually became a club. 

O: That was like four months. Geir talked about it in the autumn and by January it was a club and that’s when he asked me to do the Thursday nights. He wanted me to do something different than Footfood and I had already started to jam a bit with Bugge Wesseltoft at Christiania at that point, so it was natural to bring in musicians on Thursday night. The night was called SuperReal.

g: Everybody started hanging out there from the start. 

O:  Geir and Omar V were the first residents and after a while I brought along Truls and Robin. Torbjørn Brundtland from Røyksopp used to be there all the time before they moved to Bergen. Even Fardin (Faramarzi) was involved in the beginning. He was on the door primarily, but he would also DJ from time to time. 

g: And Per Martinsen (Mental Overdrive). Besides DJs like these, we also started booking foreign DJs almost straight away.

O: We booked the Paper Recordings guys early on, Kenny Hawkes and Luke Solomun. Then I met the Idjut Boys at Bar Rumba in London. People started talking, a community of DJs across Europe. We got to know Jori Hulkkonen, Jesper Dahlbeck and Stephan Grieder from Svek.

g: They would’ve just taken the bus from Sweden. I remember it was a really really big thing at that time, because Svek was really hot, and later they would licence one of their songs to the Glasgow underground mix I made, they’d never done that before. 

O: At that time most DJs from England were like 200/300 GBP. I mean we did a lot of swaps, so people wanted to come to Geir’s club and Geir got invited back to England, and the same with me. It was all by telephone or fax and quite a few of these people I met in record stores in London like Atlas, Vinyl junkies and Black market. 

By the summer  of ‘96 there started to be a buzz and by the autumn of that year it was really picking up. We started getting 100 metre queues outside on most nights. 

The crowd was made up of older hippy-like free thinkers with a mix of the “It” crowd, like young photographers, creative people and dancers; your alternative club people. It might have looked the same if you went to Moscow or Italy at the time; a small club scene with cool individualists. 

g: We were just distributing flyers and word of mouth reached everybody. Even though it was an Internet cafe, ironically there was nothing online.

O: I also had a radio show on NRK from ‘93, when people still checked the radio for new music. It was a good time to be on the radio. Radio was mostly for people outside of Oslo; people in Oslo went out on Saturday nights, they didn’t sit at home and listen to the radio. After a while people came round from all over the country to check out Skansen. 

They adopted it quite well. It was such a small place that if you didn’t like it, you left,  because you had to be part of the party to have a good time. It wasn’t a place to stand in the corner to observe. 

g: It was a very intense kind of feeling.  

O: It was a small room and you were on top of each other.  A lot of the people made new friends there. 

g: It was a busy time for that end of Oslo too. Jazid was in Pilestredet and Headon was in rosenkrantz gate so there was this straight line going through them. 

O: There was basically 500m between the 3 main clubs in Oslo. Headon were doing more funk stuff. Jazzid was so much more trip-hop, downbeat drum n bass. So it was easy for Skansen to be more House based, and have a strict difference between these 3 venues. We had a kind of a deal in the beginning not to push each other. 

g: I played at both Jazid and Skansen for a while, when it was still ok to play House music at the first one. 

O: Geir had your Fridays and I had my Thursdays. Geir and Cecilie were taking care of Saturdays and then we had some weekends together where we were co-operating and bringing in guests. 

The bookings were still dominated by that sound in France, of motorbass, Étienne de Crécy, paper recordings, and Erik Rug. You had that London scene, And then you had that more high energy Chicago and New York type of House sound, which was run by Classic , but then you had a local sound too that started to get recognition abroad too.

Collage of Olle Asbtract and Guests at Skansen
g
: Yeah, that Erot and Bjørn Torkse sound, called Skrangle or whatever. 

O: Skrangle, means sloppy in a way, which is not strictly 4-4, but more sloppy. Bjørn or Erot basically in the way that they move and also play.

g: It was a term we used here in Norway, but it is not an internationally recognised word. 

O: We didn’t use that word at all back then. We could say that something was Skranglete if it wasn’t really accurate. We both came from sequenced music, which was not the case for Skansen, which was more open. 

g: The Idjut Boys stuff kind of encapsulated that mood. 

O: Meaning more dubs and echoes, and percussion that was off; a bit more live sounding. We weren’t really thinking about creating a sound or anything, we were in the middle of it.

Of course loads got influenced by it, with all these Jazz musicians coming in through Bugge and Niels Petter, and they all started doing electronic albums after being at Skansen for half a year. 

g: It was just something in the air at the time. The ones playing in the scenes we admired abroad, were also the same people we were booking so it felt very connected. 

O: We were basically all stroking each other’s backs and trying to make our way through the scene. I guess everybody was doing the same thing; whether it was Sheffield, London Stockholm or Paris and in Oslo it became this fluid thing between us and Bergen.

We had lots of contact  with Mikal Telle, and we knew all the players in Bergen, but mostly it was Bjørn, Erot and Kahuun. Erot actually played his first gig at Skansen

g: That was a legendary set. 

O: Annie was with Erot at the time and they slept on top of my records. They stayed  for a week, just eating spaghetti and ketchup. They didn’t have any money, I didn’t have any money, nobody had any money back then. 

Tore (Erot) was only just starting to make music. I actually met him at a rave in Drammen before and then Bjørn told me about him and then we brought him over.

It was one of my most memorable nights there, besides another with Omid 16B playing live. This was SuperReal’s first birthday and Omid was actually an act that fitted more into Footfood’s night. But since it was the birthday, we had Geir as part of the party. It was amazingly good. 

g: I can’t remember that specific night, there are just too many. 

O: There were some great nights with the Idjut Boys. Back then it was only vinyl and they went a lot to New York. They were a few years ahead of us when it came to weird, hard to find stuff. Also some mad nights with Simon Lee from Faze Action. 

This was at the height of Paper Recordings, when they would release a 12” every ten days and most of their tracks went into the top 20 of club charts in that time. They also released the Those Norwegians LP, Kaminsky Park in ‘97.

g: It was very kind of hot for a while with Ari B and an article in the face. For its popularity however during this time, it was kind of hanging in the air the whole time. Per and those people weren’t really that good with the paperwork. There was always something threatening the existence of the club, but they always kind of got it back on track. 

O: And then in ‘99 it just stopped.

G-HA & Olle Abstract today and the Skansen Mix CD cover
g
: I had just finished the Glasgow Underground Skansen mix, and it was just suddenly closed one day. It was a really big thing for me to do this mix when it came out. We were going to have this release party at Skansen, but it lost its licence on the same day. 

O: Then the indie rock scene took over from ten years of House and Techno in Oslo. Suddenly Hip Hop started being played in more venues. The years that followed from 2000 – 2003, you had to be more versatile as a DJ. I had to play so much different stuff to get gigs. Uptempo Hip-Hop, like Timbaland instrumentals and mix it with House. And then you had Mono and Baronsai coming up which had a different profile.

g: I actually moved Footfood to Baronsai. It was really hip to be around all the places in youngstorget so it was suddenly very far for people to go down to Skansen. We tried to re-open it, after that but it didn’t last very long. 

O: The main years for Skansen was early january ‘96  til late ‘99 with the same ownership. We were young as well. 

g: I mean, I was 23 in ‘96 when it had been open for a year. 

O: We were like kids. We felt like grown-ups, like we were important. 

g: But, we weren’t so grown up.

O: I made loads of friends. Loads of us got bigger through Skansen.

g: There was a generation that disappeared with Skansen

O: It was the first experience for quite a few.  It was magic for that period of time, it’s always hard to recreate something like that. Most of the people that went out at that time were 28 by 2000 and moved on in their life, most of them except for us and a few others (laughs). Everyone that tried to be there after that tried to make their version of it.

g: Nothing has really worked though. It is so difficult to do something else down there because everybody will always want to compare it to Skansen and that time and era in club music in Oslo. 

 

Profile: 100% Galcher Lustwerk

Over the past few years, a handful artists in America have begun to reclaim House music for the next generation. Artists like Galcher Lustwerk, Byron the Aquarius and Channel Tres, have used House music as a more inclusive platform in a new wave of the genre that might see it return to a time at the height of its popularity. Elements of Jazz  Soul, Hip-Hop and Funk form a bedrock from which modern composers weave their unique and esoteric musical language. 

From Byron the Aquarius’ jazzified Rhodes incantations to Channel Tres’ crossover rap-vocal appeal, there is no singular sound or scene that unites these artists, only an intangible vibe. It sounds like New York, Chicago and LA in the of breezy attitude that underpins it and colours outside the predetermined lines that have defined the genre for some time. It breathed new life into a House movement that has been caught in the deep end for far too long.

*Galcher Lustwerk performs live this  Friday at Jaeger.

*tickets available 

In many ways Galcher Lustwerk paved the way for this trend or phase in House music with his seminal mixtape “100%” back in 2013. He completely broke with the entrenched sound of Deep House, largely informed by Europe, for a sound that was more free and dynamic. Infusing that sound with vocals that would be more at home with Trap than House, it was a completely new and inventive approach. Following this debut release with a predominantly LP-based discography, Galcher Lustwerk’s music stayed the course through another 2 albums before it reached the archives of Ghostly International to cement Galcher Lustwerk’s music beyond his own Lustwerk music imprint and White Material affiliations.

“Information” saw Galcher Lustwerk reach the next sphere in House music’s institutions. He hardly needed the validation of a flagship label like Ghostly however, but “Information” impressed nonetheless, building on that momentum from “100%” and catching the ear of a wider audience. Amongst those that heard his work was Azealia Banks, with Galcher Luswerk claiming a production credit for 2021’s “F**k Him All Night” from the controversial pop icon. There’s certainly a kindred spirit in those two artists’ approach to music, as they reappropriate elements of Hip Hop into House and vice versa, but where Banks’ work favours the crossover into the limelight, Lustwerk’s music stays the course in the shadows of House music’s counter-cultural roots.

Much like the man, his music is an enigma. Galcher Lustwerk moves like a fog through sound, with lush pads and woolly rhythms ebbing on a swell. At times, you have to turn up your collar against the cold indifferent breeze that floats through his work, but it retains an intriguing human quality, like a Tom Clancy novel’s mood captured in the album format. His vocal drifts like a morning mist across lichen marshes, revealing peaks of reality through an opaque abstractionism. It’s a sound he’s cultivated from that first mixtape, and through the albums and EPs that followed it’s something that has remained central to his work. 

Yet, Galcher Lustwerk’s origins are as elusive as the feeling you get from listening to his records. It seemed that he arrived with his debut mixtape, fully formed and developed as an artist. The man behind the work, Chris Sherron, was largely unknown before Galcher Lustwerk, but the production on “100%” is not that of a novice. 

Sherron grew up in Cleveland. Talking to Bolting Bits, he called it “a fine city” and its influence on his adolescent years made him a “more creative” individual. “There isn’t very much youth culture or arts culture compared to other cities,” he claimed ”so if you’re interested in that type of thing like I was – you had to pursue it at all costs and do a lot of things alone or in a cultural vacuum.” He had some basic grounding in music, playing the sax at school, but a “lame as fuck” Teacher who would wear piano ties and listen to Deep Purple in his PT cruiser (much like a character in a Galcher Lustwerk song), had quickly put the young Sherron off a formal musical education. 

Seemingly that set him on a path to electronic music: “I would say the biggest influence for me is Underworld,” Sherron told Reverb. “I was really into the ‘electronica’ stuff, so anything like the Chemical Brothers or Underworld, the Prodigy, Groove Armada,” which would put Sherron around his teens in the mid nineties. 

Among some of the other influences he also mentions indie rock, but on more than one occasion in interviews, he would recall that “hip-hop music was out of my grasp at the time.” As a “sheltered kid” growing up in the Midwest, the music was largely prohibited at home “because a lot of the rap music had parental advisory [stickers],” he elucidated on Fader in 2018. “I looked at other black music that didn’t. I gravitated towards Massive Attack and Tricky and the British stuff like drum and bass. That was the stuff I was super psyched on and wondering like, ‘Damn, how do they make those sounds?’ and wanting to learn about production.” 

He taught himself how to use the sample-based music software Fruity Loops, which set him on a road towards production, but there’s a huge gap in his biography between then and Glacher Lustwerk. At some point he moved to Rhode Island to study at the famous school of design, and it’s there he seemed to fall into a musical crowd. “I caught the last hurrah of the scene,” he told Spex magazine, but it’s there where he met the other White Material co-founders, DJ Richard and Young Male; a significant twist in the plot towards Galcher Lustwerk. “At the time there, it wasn’t really about quality but intensity, how intense you could be,” remembers Sherron of that scene.

White Material’s debut self-titled EP reflects some of that intensity. It’s fast-paced House music with a Lo-Fi attitude, but a considered sound palette. The sounds aren’t brash or harsh, but you get the sense that they are quickly assembled, the impatience of youth reflected on the serrated resonances of a sawtooth wave. White Material shares some similarities to labels like L.I.E.S, aligning with that DIY New York sound; that is until you get to the last track on the record. At first “Put On” sounds like much of the rest of the record, and then Glacher Lustwerk’s gruff vocal appears through the ratcheting rhythms and misty keys. It’s a track that sounds almost at odds with the rest of the record now and it’s only when we hear it again in Galcher Lustwerk’s debut mixtape, that things fall into place. 

White Material came out around the same time as his “100% Galcher,” but  “Put On” sounds more at home on the longer format than the EP. The mixtape saw Sherron establish Galcher Lustwerk as an artist right from the start and showed a side to House music that we’ve not really experienced in the past. While R&B- or Gospel vocals were no stranger to chart-topping House music, Galcher Lustwerk’s trap-like raps on this kind of “underground” House music was a new phenomenon. It captured the zeitgeist of a contemporary streaming society and resonated with a new kind of audience that were broadening the borders of clubspaces and club music. It had crossover appeal, but Sherron’s affiliation with a more underground scene thwarted any attempts at the mainstream.

“100% Galcher” and the first White Material release wasn’t exactly an anomaly, and indicated more to something in the winds of change, but by the time Galcher Lustwerk’s official debut Dark Bliss came out in 2017, he had played a significant part in establishing a particular sound on to its own and one that certainly would have influenced an artist like Channel Tres, whose Hollywood approximation would take it to a more accesible realm.

“I believe I may have set some sort of trend and now people in other music spheres are making similar music,” Sherron admits in Bolting Bits around the time “Dark Bliss” came out. While people started rapping over House beats and Hip-Hop started making more of an impression on House music at that time, Galcher Lustwerk was different and something more considered. It was a more natural infusion of these two spheres, and came down to his skills as producer. This wasn’t some pre-paid beat or a rhythm section shoehorned into an existing vocal, it was a fully-formed concept. “I want my music to feel luxurious,” he explained. There’s a softness in his sounds and the sense of space he creates in his productions offer an inviting sonic meadow for the listener. Kick drums loop in the background, almost always immersed in a cloud of pads, repeating like a mantra towards hedonistic escape, while a vocal sails through the arrangement. 

In the production itself, Glacier Lustwerk isn’t necessarily groundbreaking nor exceptionally unique as a well-ingrained style Deep House. But that changes with his vocal. We don’t know much about how he arrived at incorporating vocals to his music and when asked about his rap influences, he’s often cagey, but we do know how he came to his unique lyrical style. “My friend Alvin Aronson, who is also on White Material [Records], was like, ‘You need to make your vocals like less literal,’” he recounted in Fader. “Ever since then I kind of veered off into trying to get almost as absurd as I can; not absurd in a stupid way, but just as stream of consciousness.”

The “stream of consciousness” can take surprising and very obscure turns. He can go from making love songs about music software templates to repeating a phrase or word into infinity, to a point where it comes apart, devoid of all meaning, or re-purposed and re-defined.

It’s best appreciated in the album format, where these lyrics take on a narrative like a Charlie Kaufman script. On his latest “Information” it moves through some specific themes in what we can only assume is personal experiences of a working DJ. It’s “about learning to move in a certain way through a world that parties, a hedonistic world” he told Fader, and he truly immerses you in that world, as drug references are re-established in mirror images and  modern life reaffirmed in restrained music.

“I think it’s just a nice chunk of time to be immersed into a world,” said Sherron of his preference for the album format in Reverb, and “Information” is probably his best effort yet in the longer format. Whereas “Dark Bliss” and “200%” carried that same inclusive approach to the first mixtape, where it becomes a collection of songs, “Information” comes together in a more cohesive sense with a record that flows between peaks and troughs of energy. “It made sense to have some more slow songs in there as interludes,” he told Spex and it makes for an album that retains the attention. 

It might also suggest that Sherron is starting to explore new territories in his music. “I’ve been making more downtempo stuff anyway,” he confirms in that same interview. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m clubbing less, or just getting old,” he stresses, but it might also indicate an evolution in his work. It feels like he’s thoroughly established the sound of Galcher Lustwerk and it might be time to take it to that next step.  

 

Solo Super with Frantzvaag

By the time Mats Frantzvaag stepped out of the booth at Jaeger after his 2019 Boiler Room set, he had the crowd in a frenzy. People were literally hanging off him, hugging and high-fiving Mats as he made his way out of the basement and into the open air. He’d stirred the dance floor appropriately, laying the foundation for the night ahead with a punchy and effervescent House set that saw the dance floor swell in anticipation and excitement for the young Norwegian producer and DJ.

As Frantzvaag he had already released a couple of EPs on Smallville’s Fuck Reality imprint at that point, but in Norway he was still something of an unknown entity;  a record producer with more notoriety outside of the country than in it. That Boiler Room night had all the hallmarks of a pivotal moment for Frantzvaag. Building on those first two records, the event only cemented our belief in this young artist, as a producer with some serious skills as a DJ.

Mats could have easily taken that momentum and channeled it into a string of EPs or singles to install the name Frantzvaag on the scene. Instead, he bided his time. He was not one to succumb to the hype, but rather took his time to cultivate his craft further. When I first interviewed Mats back around the release of his first EP, there was no doubt that he would eventually be a notable figure on Oslo’s scene with an international following, but he has been in no rush to get there. He DJs when he wants to –“if something cool crops up, not the ones I think I should do for money” – and he hasn’t released anything since 2018’s Fuck Reality 5.

He’s focus has been elsewhere. While he’s had enough material to release at least an EP a year, since, he’s ultimate objective over the course of these last 4 years has solidified around Frantzvaag’s debut in the LP. In yet another watermark in this artist’s young career, Solo Super is only Frantzvaag’s fourth release and its an album. It arrived at Easter, “a happy coincidence” according to Mats with a title that conveys some of that dry sense of Norwegian humour and the inherent sense of fun that remains at the core of House music’s purpose.

Solo Super is a House record that thwarts the obvious tropes that dog House music LPs; strengthening allegiances with the dance floor while at the same time stepping away from the functionalist loop-driven patterns. There’s an album there, something you could put on at home, without having to skip the obvious ambient track, and yet you could slip almost any track into a set, without missing a beat. There’s something entirely refreshing about Solo Super (pun intended) as you drift through the charged progressions. A layer of sonic dust covers everything in a warm and embracing atmosphere, while rhythm patterns strike an impulsive chord.

Depth and consideration follows the record through its nine tracks, and from Mats’ early Hip Hop influences to the passage of time that has passed through this record there’s a lot more to consider beyond the superficial nature of a House record. I sat down with Mats at Baklengs, an Oslo record store he runs with a few others, and over a conversation and an email, we tried to unpack the infectious charm of Solo Super.


 

Solo Super is available at Baklengs today.

What was the transition like going over from those two EPs into an LP?

It happened very naturally really. I did the two EPs and then I just kept sending him (Julius Steinhoff) tracks to choose from, and in the end was like, let’s go with these nine. It’s been in the books for a few years actually.

So you were working towards an LP, but not necessarily making the tracks with the thought of making an LP?

 Not really, no.

Did the tracks on the LP overlap with the stuff you were making for the EPs?

 Some  of them. You can see some of the oldest tracks from the album were made in 2016. So that’s around the time when the first EP came out. I gradually added some stuff and removed some stuff.

And a theme emerged as you tried to bring tracks together that would fit amongst each other?

 Yes.

That’s interesting, because one of my initial thoughts when hearing the LP was that this sound a little bit different from the EPs, but I guess that would just be me inferring something that isn’t there?

Yes, but once I knew that the album was about to come, I made some tracks with that in mind also. The last track on the album for instance, is something that I thought we were missing. So it’s a gradual thing that evolved, rather than me sitting down to make an album.

It’s obviously a House record, but I would suggest that it’s perhaps not as focussed on the dance floor as a functional 12”.

 Yes, so it’s basically me and Julius coming up with the track listing.

As you were coming up with the tracklisting, what were you looking for the tracks to make up the LP, and how would it have differed from the EPs?

I put more emphasis on finding tracks that represent different styles and moods than what I would normally do on an EP. More tracks = more chances to showcase different aspects of what I make. Moreover, I wanted the album to make sense and be interesting when listening through the whole thing, both in terms of which tracks were included and the order that they´re in.

Are you hoping this record will be finding its way into DJ record bags?

 That’s also something I hope, at least some of the singles. I think it’s a nice thing to listen to throughout as well. I remember putting together the track list, and I was spending a lot of time going on long walks and listening to the tracks all the way through to see if it made any sense.

Did your approach to making music change at all throughout the period in which these songs were made?

The first EP it’s very sample-based, but on this there is a variation, because some of the tracks were made in the studio across the road, where I had access to more equipment.

I thought I could hear more analogue sounding synthesisers in the LP, than perhaps from the EPs.

Few of them are actual synthesisers and the rest of them are more me trying to process these sounds in a certain way.

There’s a very organic sound to the LP throughout. Is that from the samples or do you actively try to create that feeling somehow?

Some of the tracks don’t have that many samples either. It’s both that or it’s something I try to achieve, either through the use of samples or the method of processing the sounds.

Why was this the right time for an LP, because it sounds like you could have had a few more EPs out of this one record by the sounds of it?

 It was more about having this one product that is more cohesive and shows the depth of what I can make. It’s more like a standpoint.

Was this mainly your idea or did Julius push towards making an LP?

 It was a common goal, I think. We started talking about it when he was in Norway in 2018. Then it gradually appeared.

Besides that one Full Pupp record, you pretty much stayed with Smallville. It must be pretty conducive for your work.

Yes, I think so. I really like the aesthetics of the label, and they are really cool people. I haven’t put out that much really. I’ve been waiting to do this bigger project and see where it goes from there.

I was reading this interview with Joy O, about how he refrained from calling his last full-length an album, but rather a mixtape, because there is a bit of stigma around House albums. Do you think that is true?

 Could be. But if you listen to my album, the tracks stand out for themselves as EPs too. So it’s more like a collection of tracks than a cohesive story, told through nine tracks made in a very short period. This is a collection of tracks that fit really well together.

It is definitely not the usual House album, with the two ambient tracks and a pop hopeful single with vocals. Every track is very much a dance food track on this.

That can get a bit uninspiring as well, when you force in an ambient track just to be there.

One thing that I noticed a lot on the record, is that there is a lot of dub stuff happening in the background.

 I really like that. A lot of my tracks are very heavy on low pass filters and have stuff a bit muffled. So it doesn’t stand out that much, but it’s still there creating some kind of atmosphere.

Were there any specific influences or listening habits that informed this?

There is so much. I listen to a lot of dub and reggae at the shop and at home and all kinds of electronic stuff. What I listen to is usually not that similar to what I make.

And the Hip Hop Influence is still there. Everything from the sampling to the dusty feel of the entire record. Is this something that you have to consciously apply to your work?

It happens naturally actually. It’s just become part of how I make music, I usually just sit there and try to make this loop sound interesting, putting textures behind it.

Well that’s something else about this record, it’s not just loops.

 No, but it starts out like that.

There’s a lot more progression through the tracks, and am I detecting more of a melodic element to these tracks compared to the EPs?

Yes, probably some of them.

Like Blommenholm. Was that one of the tracks that came after most of the LP was made?

Yes. That is also one of the few tracks that is a little bit slower and has a different vibe.

What do you look for in sounds when making music, because there’s not that 808-juno combination that dominates most of House music still?

 They should stand out in some way and they should have some feeling to them. It’s not just a straight 808 drum; I’ll try and process it or use a sound that has some character. I usually layer quite a lot and try to make my own sounds.

How much input does Julius or the label have, when it comes to these production touches?

The only input he might have is about the length of a track to fit into the album, but nothing really on the production side. At the point of sending something away, I’ve already mixed it and done all of it. In my head it’s a finished product. It’s more that I send tracks to friends.

Like who, people involved in the industry?

Not really. Some childhood friends that are also into making music. I send it to Hacir (Payan) of course sometimes

He must have opinions?

 He has opinions and often good ones.

Tell us a little more about the influence of the shop. At the time of your first interview with us, you were already talking about how the shop was having an affect on you.

 Then I was only starting to get involved, and since then the shop has grown into more of a community. It’s a really nice place. Everytime I’m here I get exposed to so much music that I wouldn’t hear otherwise. Also you meet so many people and discuss music, so it’s a super big influence, I would say.

Was there anything that didn’t make it on the album that you would’ve liked to have on the LP?

 There is always stuff, but that’s more recent stuff that didn’t really fit in with the rest of the album.

Do you think you’ll have another LP worth of tracks soon?

Could be…

Would there be a similar approach to making this last album , or would you try to make something more concise?

Would be fun to do the more concise thing. I have no clear plans yet. I might do a few more EPs before then. 

 

 

In conversation: DELLA and Bomström

DELLA interviews Bomström, the first international guest to DELLAs Drivhus since 2019. They talk about Locus Soundsystem, classical music, Djing and keeping it koselig before they head to the sauna this Saturday.

DELLA: Hello there Mr. Bomström, I’m looking forward to sharing the booth with you this coming Saturday, it has been some time! Once upon a time you were a resident of Oslo, where are you based now?

Bomström: Hello there Kristina, Likewise –  yeah, it’s been a way too long time now. But finally even Swedes are welcome in Norway. I’m super stoked about getting back to Oslo, to Jaeger,  and seeing you again! Göteborg is my homebase. Best coast it is.

D: Ah, lovely Göteborg, one of my favourite European cities! An adorable seaside city filled with lovely cafes and pubs, vintage shopping, and culture. Each visit, I was there to play at some amazing underground party in secret locations, at a children’s puppet theatre or a giant warehouse in an old shipyard. And of course, the bouncing balloon bars (it’s legal!). Oh, you crazy Swedes. Tell us about your role in Göteborg and being the creator of these underground events.

How did it all start?

B: It started, some ten years ago, with this studio that I shared with a friend. It was way too big for being a music production studio / creative playground. But since it wasn’t really suitable to split up with further people, we decided to start throwing ug parties there instead. It was this intimate family thing, members only kind of events, off fb and all that. Since people seem to be into parties that are sold out, it quickly became popular. The main reason for that was because the venue was so tiny. But nobody noticed and the parties went on. Once a month. Damn, I’ve even seen the sweat dripping from the ceiling at one of these parties. And that was the start. From there on I started exploring the Gbg industrial areas and the beaches, searching for new locations in order to do bigger events. Eventually I started doing more and more co-labs with the Locus crew. Until one day, even if I did my own thing, people would still consider it a Locus party. It’s pretty weird huh. But we jacked the same kind of house, you know. So I got hijacked! Some five years ago I became a member of Locus Soundsystem.

D: What kind of events have you arranged?

B: Well, when I think of it, it seems I’ve done them all. The open air parties, warehouse parties, beach parties, forest parties, island parties, festivals, smaller club nights and big club nights. But since it sounds a bit odd to put it like that, it’s probably a better idea to mention something I haven’t done, and that is a big size festival.  I guess I will never do that either haha.

D: Tell us more about your musical journey, when did you begin djing and where has it led you?

BSince I was a kid I have always been into music, playing piano and church organ etc. I am a trained church musician actually. But I injured my arms because I was rocking the piano too hard (true story). So I had to figure out a new way to express myself as an artist. I got into fine arts and stuff and during those years I found the electronic scene. Now, as I think back, I figure it must have been because of the frequent use of keys in electronic music, that I got hooked in the first place. I always loved soul and jazz, as well as hiphop etc. But generally I think that electronic has more similarities with classical music – when it comes to harmonies. They’re pretty basic after all. You don’t need to know all these super complicated chords and scales, that jazz music, for example, is entirely built upon. Being a fan, going to raves and stuff, I stumbled into these two ladies in Oslo, Della and Vibeke (former No Dial Tone), who took me under their wings and brought me into the Oslo scene. I remember you guys booked me to play at The Villa. It was my second gig. So, yeah – thanks a lot for believing in me back then!

During the years, since then, I have been traveling around djing at clubs and festivals around the nordic, as well as in many european countries.   

DYou are currently a resident of Locus Soundsystem, who / what is this?

BLocus Soundsystem is a dj collective and the longest running concept for underground deep house music up in the north. We have thrown our club night at Pustervik for some 22 years now. But we are also infamous in Gbg for our secret NYE celebrations, as well as for the occasional activities in shady industrial areas. But our style of music is perhaps better suitable for beaches. At least we tend to think so. But maybe it’s just that we prefer breathing fresh air, who knows.

DI know that you are classically trained in music, can you tell us more on this?

BYeah, my parents listened a lot to classical music. Both my parents and my sisters always played the piano. So what the heck, I thought. It didn’t take long before all I was doing was playing the piano and I even went to the music academy. Until I played so much I injured my arms. I had to quit just like that and start thinking of something else for a career. That’s the short version of the story. I have no problem playing the piano now. But I am currently expressing myself in a slightly different way as a musician, and it’s all fine with me. And the classical music scene, well – I guess there was more rock and roll in my veins so to say.  I mean – imagine me in a tuxedo?

D: Primarily, you are a DJ, but production is something you are devoting more time to. What are you currently working on?

BAt the moment I’m into many different genres. Because I have this idea that I can achieve a lot from trying out a style I have never been into before. Even the kind of music I don’t listen to myself. Because doing that pushes me into new workarounds. Into playing around with new techniques, instruments, effects, melodies, chords and samples, etc. But since I am not into that style of music, I will never do it entirely “correctly”, right. This has got me thinking I might eventually come up with something unique. I don’t know if I’m right. But it certainly is lots of fun. I am currently working on my first album. But I’ve always been a huge fan of hip hop. So I’ve been producing beats for some good friends of mine who are very talented rappers. And! Believe it or not – I’m working on some house music too!

DNow that we are finally seeing the light from the end of these strange 2 years we’ve been living, summer plans? Gigs, festivals, or planning events?

B: We have this summer club at Nefertiti in Gbg called Locus 2.0 premiering next week (30.5). Then we always have a lot of secret open air events going on during the summer, as I mentioned before. Another good one is the special gathering that will take place in the end of the summer, in a village up north. It’s called Tillvaron. When it comes to gigs abroad I am looking forward to joining the Rehab crew in Naples and hopefully I will make it back to Berlin also this summer.

D: This will be your first time joining us at Jaeger, what will you be playing?

BHouse

D: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

B: During my years in Oslo I always wondered how you guys could always be so goddamn happy all the time. Then I noticed you always tend to say “det er koselig” no matter what is going on. Everything is so koselig. At the doctor – it is koselig. At the car mechanic – it is koselig. In the middle of a riot – it is koselig. I always thought for myself, as a depressed Swede, that it just cannot be koselig at all at the police station. I never went to a Norwegian police station, so what do I know. But at least it shouldn’t be, right? But now that I have grown older and as I am about to head back to Oslo, I finally figured you guys out. You were right. It is koselig. Pretty damn koselig, in fact. Oslo – jeg gleder meg!

 

Della’s Drivhus is a concept dedicated to the root of dance music, the tribal drum, and the vibration that syncs with the heart. As my first int’l guest since 2019, I welcome you. Saturday is going to be a galactic evening! 

Soundcloud:

Blawan: through the tracks

The essential Blawan listening experience from “Fram” to “Blika.” 

For little over a decade Blawan has been at the forefront of a definitive shift in the sound of Techno as one of the new vanguard of the genre. An intuitive approach to rhythm and sound, he has been the harbinger of a new futuristic ideology for the dance floor that has seen his star rise alongside a rising trend in the genre. 

Although Blawan came through during a wave of “future” genres out of the post-dubstep era in the UK, he is now firmly installed amongst the Techno elite both as a DJ and a producer. From the first provocative rhythms of Fram to his latest contribution to the XL catalogue, Blawan has delivered an idiosyncratic sound throughout a career that has evolved through a revolution of electronic music destined for the dance floor. 

With a visit to our basement in the near future, we delved through the enigmatic producer’s vast discography in an effort to investigate the continuous appeal and ingenuity of the artist and producer. 

Advance tickets to Blawan here. 

 

Fram (Hessel Audio)

This is the one that grabbed everybody’s attention. Fram and its sister track Iddy not only cemented Blawan in the aftermath of UK’s dubstep explosion, but also established the burgeoning Hessel Audio label. Hessel would eventually become a future tastemaker for the more progressive end of electronic club music as Blawan would move into the realm of punishing Techno.

Fram is one of those tracks and Blawan is one of those artists that came about at the end of the hype of Dubstep. The track is a testament to that era and the innovative forms of music coming out of London at that time at places like plastic people. The polyrhythmic percussion and alien sound sculptures didn’t sound like anything on the dance floor at that time. Moving to electronic music from behind a set of drums, you can hear Blawan’s inherent mastery of the rhythmic form in Fram. Between drum machines, and some live percussion, there’s an expressive approach that gave his largely machine music a human feel. 

“A twitchy but muscular number bristling with hollowed out, ligneous beat,” John Doran from the Quietus described it. It veered on the abstract electronica realm, but fell well clear of the experimental as sound systems like that of Corsica Studios’ room 2 would attest at the time.

Building his tracks from the percussion up (a common theme in his music), Blawan created an intense and foreboding sound that conjured the mood of cinematic horror. “It’s funny,” Blawan told The Face in a recent interview, “every time I bring tracks from the studio, my partner says ​‘why are you always writing stuff that sounds like it’s in a horror film?’ And to be honest, I’ve no idea…” It’s something that’s congruent in Blawan’s approach to dance music and something of a trademark of the artist’s sound, even today.

 

What you do with what you have (R&S)

It wasn’t soon after Fram and Iddy that Blawan started to gain recognition in dance music circles. He stood out amongst his peers for his innovative approach, infusing elements from diverse sources one his way to establishing a Blawan sound. Today he might mostly be known for that kind of brutalist sonic signature that he reserves for his own Ternesc imprint, but on his way to establishing that signature Blawan sound he stopped off at R&S with a record that fell deep for the lysergic impulses of Acid. 

What you do with what you have is a snarling monster, bearing the grisly grimace of a 303 loop seemingly jutting out from the lacquer surface. Everything in this track has a percussive quality; from the drums to the galvanised plucks of the main melody. But it’s a vocal, repeating various snippets of the same sample at different pitch intervals, that lures the listener closer. 

“Yes. What I really want I guess is to add a human, emotional touch to the track… rather than getting super in someone’s face like I used to!” Blawan said at the time. The vocal sample comes from that now infamous Red Bull Music Academy lecture with Moodymann. The main line, “it ain’t what you got, it’s what you do with what you have” is not only great advice, it also seems to offer some clue to Blawan’s philosophy to his sonic identity. 

Blawan’s music doesn’t pander to the industry-approved sound palette. Although What you do with what you have is clearly an acid Techno record, there is more to the record than a couple of machines slugging it out. It builds on those reserved minimalist foundations of his early records, but it’s a sound that would be more at home at Berghain than at Plastic People. 

 

Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage (Hinge Finger)

By the time What you do with what you have was released, Blawan was already courting the big rooms, even though not quite fully inducted into them. He would be no stranger to Berlin’s dark and intimidating Techno lairs, but at same time could still be found playing more intimate venues in London. By the time this next track came out however, it would propel Blawan towards a level amongst Techno’s top tier.

Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage was huge! It came at a time when music blogs still had some sway in the world, and when DJs were still breaking records on the dance floor, sometimes up to a year before they were released. Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage managed to court both factions and had everybody in a frenzy before it came out. By the time the record eventually was released it was already sold out everywhere… and I’m not exaggerating – Even today the popularity of that record has waned little with copies going on discogs for a hefty €50 and up.

“I was surprised at how it took off. And it scared me as well, if I’m honest,” Blawan told the Quietus at the time. “It was a direction I didn’t want to go in.” It’s rumoured that it started life as a joke, but by the time Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage came out the level of success it achieved was nothing to scoff at. Blawan had arrived at the mainstage!

That dark, brooding architecture is not only behind the title of the record, but also in the atmosphere of this record. The vocal; titillating and intimidating, only bolstered that appeal, and if you were a fan of electronic music around 2012, you’d have to be living under a rock, if this track didn’t reach you at any point. Perhaps its appeal lay in the simplification of Blawan’s polyrhythmic nature, but it didn’t distract from Blawan’s otherworldly sonic signature. 

 

Talatone (Ternesc)

And just like that Blawan stopped releasing records. Directly after Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage, there came an hiatus in Blawan’s recording output. He left it on a high-note with that record. For those only arriving at his music however, it marked a career in its infancy and only left them hungry for more of the same, with his earlier records and their divergent sound hardly satiating the masses. 

Citing health issues, which included a trip under the surgeon’s knife, Blawan was forced to take a break from the scene and take stock of his life in music going forward. His appeal hardly waned during his time away as records like Why they hide… were coveted by the discogs mania speculating for the future. Blawan’s music refused to fizzle out in the background, and  by the time he did come back into the fray with a new record, a new label, and several new projects he didn’t just arrive back on the scene, but stamped a formidable mark on it with tracks like Talatone.

Talatone was the first cut from the first EP for his new label, Ternesc and it asserted Blawan’s return in a dominating and forceful Techno thriller. A more intimidating approach to sound design, Talatone is a functional monster that bears some comparisons to Why they hide… while foregoing that immediacy of the previous record. If Blawan was perhaps a Techno producer with associations on the wonkier spectrum of the genre before, Talatone picked no bones about being a Techno tool for any DJ with the stamina for this kind of music. 

Talatone, Ternersc and Blawan’s return came at a time when Techno’s momentum just started picking up again towards a moment in the present when it’s one of the most popular music genres in the world today. Unsurprisingly it propelled Blawan on that same trajectory where his name and music have become synonymous with the genre’s modern vanguard. 

 

As Bored Young Adults – Shy Dancers On Bungalowdorf Beach (Trilogy Tapes)

…and then for something completely different. This is Blawan on a divergent course again. Bored Young Adults is reportedly the alias he created for a style of music he made for home listening, but the one-time fooray into this realm is hardly easy-listening. Bored young adults arrived at a time of a massive creative spark for the artist it seems. The music he made between then and now has only strengthened the diversity of the artist’s sound. While his other side project with Pariah, Karenn was dedicated to peak time on a dark dance floor, Young bored Adults channelled those same formidable sounds towards after-hours and slower tempos. 

A slow chugging track, Shy Dancers On Bungalowdorf Beach taps into that downtempo balearic feel while harnessing that element of foreboding that Blawan applies to his work. Elements float and glisten on a sea of ebbing bass that showcases Blawan’s prowess as a sonic auteur. That mood he creates through his records are never stagnant; they move with the progression of the track, which comes to the fore on this slower track and the other tracks from this record. 

Judging from his shows with Pangea as Karenn and some snippets of interviews at the time,  Blawan almost certainly fell in the rabbit hole that is modular synthesisers, and it took those minimal percussive sounds he relied on in earlier records to a new dimension. His textures developed and grew into cinematic creations, but remained focussed on that rhythmic pursuit, underpinning the artist’s work.

It’s curious why Blawan has never revisited this alias. There’s a lot of potential locked in those grooves, that could certainly have made for an interesting LP. 

 

Tasser – from Wet will always dry (Ternesc)

Even though I’m of the opinion Bored Young Adults would’ve been a more intriguing LP project, Blawan’s eventual debut LP didn’t disappoint. It’s reminiscent of the classic Robert Hood LP, Minimal Nation in sonic character and in spirit. Not as bold as the EPs and the 12” from before, but retaining that elusive mood Blawan cultivates in his music, he channels it effortlessly into the domain of an album narrative while tracks like Tasser maintain that indestructible connection to the dance floor. 

Even indie chin-strokers Pitchfork couldn’t help sing the album’s praises enough. “Wet Will Always Dry isn’t an album that will rewire dance music or revolutionize modern electronics, but at its best it succeeds in pushing against the expectations of modern techno, bringing vulnerability, warmth, and oodles of enchanting noises to a musical genre whose pursuit of the future sometimes seems to have gotten lost in po-faced respect for the past.“

I tend to disagree that there’s no connection to the past here. That Detroit influence is strong here, and I would even argue tracks like Fram were perhaps even more futuristic. But that’s not the purpose of a Techno record in the long format. It’s something that needs to capture the feeling of going from a club to lying on your living room floor, ears still ringing and head still spinning as you decompress, and Wet will always dry achieves that.

There’s something engaging in the sonic palette that borders on the intellectual without getting too contemplative and introverted while at the same time there’s no mistaking it for anything other than club record. 

 

Blika 

While Blawan’s success hit stratospheric proportions there was something that eluded those records even as he found popularity amongst the larger audiences. Those early rhythms he thrived in  and what first drew us to Blawan as an artist, were starting to get subverted in the pursuit of Techno’s marching orders and familiar rhythm patterns.

Those polyrhythmic clatterings of tracks like Fram and Getting me Down (which actually deserves an honourable mention here) never quite truly found a place in the sonic world of Techno that Blawan cultivated since his return. 

That has changed again over the last few releases on Ternesc and especially over on Blika, Blawan’s induction into the XL recordings family. In the context of the records that immediately followed it namely Make a Goose and Soft Wahls, Woke Up right Handed marks a shift in the artist’s output again with a return to those enigmatic rhythmic patterns that earmarked his earlier music, fusing it with that unparalleled sound he’s cultivated over the last 7 years. 

“I’m trying to step away from spending one whole week making one modular patch,” he admitted in the quietus recently, and it seems to have taken him back to the more impulsive approach that dots his earliest creations.

Blika stutters and glides through the percussive realm as a tumultuous wave of noise and distortion crashes over each phrase. That sense of trepidation in his sonic texture seems stronger than ever as it limps through the progression, dragging menacing cantations through that harsh frequency band of human hearing. 

Does it suggest yet another new epoch in Blawan’s career as an artist? It’s perhaps not as clearly defined as that shift after his hiatus, but there’s something there that in world drowning Techno, sets it apart from the rest of the noise. It’s something that has shadowed Blawan’s career the entire way through; whatever he applies his craft to, has an innate ability to stand out from the backdrop of the Techno genre. 

 

Make something you want to hear with Christian Engh

The pieces have fallen into place for Christian Engh and his music recently. Over the last 3 releases he’s found a sonic identity that has seemingly eluded him in the past. Starting with his 2020 release Voltage and arriving at the Detache, a sound has coalesced around his work that has now been reaffirmed by the fourth edition to this series of records, Skywae. It’s a long way from the Italo sounds of his first split release, Kyllingsmak and even further still from his dalliance with Techno on 2017’s suburb Snurrbass EP. It’s not necessarily even in that comfort zone of the label Full Pupp’s sonic signature, and yet it signals an artist that has certainly found his comfort zone.

“I think you’re right,” nods Christian in agreement as he takes a sip of his beer in Jaeger’s  backyard on a cold, but sunny Saturday afternoon. It’s here where I first met Christian and it’s here, I still regularly bump into him on a night out on Jaeger’s dance floor. We share some stories of recent nights out in the backyard/gården which was largely empty on the day we met for this interview, save the furniture and one other patron. 

I had just listened to Skywae for the first time and I was unable to shake the nervous energy it’s relayed through its gritty kick drums and warm soul-stirring bass. There’s no particular earworm to hang on to, nor is there anything specific like a sound or a particular rhythmic structure that stands out, but there is a definite mood there. It’s something that touches on a nostalgic pulse from House music’s earliest vibrations, but it’s more than that. It’s bold and aggressive, but not in a brutish way and it comes together on a record that is just screaming to be played through a hefty sound system.

It’s “just the way it turned out,” says Christian, almost dismissively. Skywae is the latest in a series of records that has seen the artist cultivate a sound based on his earliest influences and finding form through the artist’s voice. It was all supposed to come out on one LP, but the pandemic and Full Pupp’s backlog of records prevented the album from coming together. Instead both label and artist opted to put the music out through a few EPs and together these EPs create a watershed moment in Christian Engh’s discography.

“I really want to make House music with that American sound,” explains Christian about this new phase in his music. “That’s what I grew up with.” He’s found a stride in this approach, and it turns out, it has resonated with a few influential tastemakers on the upper echelons of the scene too.

“I started to get some recognition from the producers and DJs I really look up to,” says Christian coyly, and he’s being modest. DJs like Cinthie and Honey Dijon have been getting behind his music for the last two years and through them Christian Engh has reached a larger audience. At the time of writing Ctairs has almost a 100 000 plays on Spotify thanks to a Honey Dijon playlist, and it’s given Christian the much-deserved credit that continues to compel him to make and release music. “Hearing something I made in a club and people dancing to it, that’s just so cool,” says Christian and it’s that which has driven him since he first started releasing his music.

He started merely “dabbling in electronic music” early on in his life, but he’d mostly avoided presenting his experiments to others. The chance to eventually release something at all was little more than a happy “coincidence” that came about being in the mix at the Full Pupp stable at a social level. 

Through a common friend he had been introduced to Magnus International and Magnus introduced him to Daniel “Blackbelt” Andersen, and the Full Pupp stalwarts became fast friends with Christian very quickly. “I started hanging out at Blå at their (Full Pupp) nights and got to know (Prins) Thomas after a while too,” continues Christian. He hadn’t played any of his music yet in their company, but as they became more familiar, Magnus, Daniel and Christian would “have some beers before going out” and eventually those turned into listening sessions where Christian “would show them what I had done.” During one such session Magnus latched onto what would become Kyllingsmak and after playing it to Thomas during a Full Pupp night at Blå, Christian’s fate was sealed. 

Witnessing the physical response of a dance floor reacting to something he made for the first time ”was such a rush,” for Christian and it sparked a desire to create more. 

Christian admits there’s a “huge difference” between those first few releases and the music he makes today. He explains it’s all down to the production. “I’ve learned a lot” and everything from Voltage up to now stands a testament to that. Consulting youtube and talking to Magnus and Daniel with some input from Prins Thomas, Christian believes that his productions have reached a point that even though “I still hear stuff that I’m not happy with, it’s not as severe.” 

There was an “a-ha moment that happened in the last two years” when he started to “learn how to use effects” and got more comfortable with aspects of compression and reverb in his work. He waves it off as “a technical thing,” of little interest for people outside music, but you don’t need to be an expert to hear the difference between those early releases and these latest ones. 

“I should have probably taught myself that years ago, but I just suck at being structured,” says Christian jokingly. For somebody that is only doing music as a “hobby” it’s never been a priority” to release records and there’s no reason why he should be so particular about his work, but I sense there’s a perfectionism behind it that has more intent than a mere hobby would. It had taken Christian ten years of making music without releasing anything and then another half decade to get to this point, but there seems to have been an inherent skill for the artform that’s been there since the first record. “I’ve been doing music for a long time,” admits Christian, “but not on the production side.”

He started to play the guitar after hearing Metallica’s …and Justice for All” as an 8 year old. “It was mind blowing,” and attempting to emulate his guitar heroes like James Hettfield and Kurt Cobain, he became quite adept at this instrument early on. His tastes evolved through death- and eventually black metal, which was a thing in Norway at the time 8or so we’re told). By the time he was 14, he had a record deal and was touring Europe and by 17, he had retired from the band and hung up the guitar, abandoning it almost completely…

“After that it’s all been electronic music,” says Christian and while he might still meet up with the people from that scene, “it’s not my interest anymore.” He’s convinced “electronic music has so much more going on.” He’d been courting these two seemingly contrasting worlds throughout his youth, and it seemed like electronic music eventually one him over.  

Yet there remains one constant between these two worlds today for Christian today and that connection is Fenris. “Fenris was a big part of my education,” insists Christian “and he still is.” The Darkthrone frontman is known for his expansive listening habits and that is something Christian has always had in common with him since his black metal days. “We started hanging out, because we were the only people in that scene that would listen to electronic music” and “it’s not exactly” the genesis of Christian’s appreciation for electronic music, “but it was there at the start.”

Even though he left the scene some years back, there are some things that he certainly carried over from that era and that world and not just his friendship with Fenris. One aspect of his music in particular that has survived the mortal coil of death metal,  is a philosophy to “make what you want to hear,” he says. Even as an adolescent guitarist with no formal training, this mantra has followed him, unwavering from one discipline to another. ”That’s my approach to House music as well,” he echoes. 

It’s embedded in his earliest memories of hearing the genre of music. Things like “the old DJ-Kicks stuff from the nineties, and the X-Mixes” is a familiar touchstone for Christian’s own influences. “That’s where it started. For instance, Kevin Saunderson’s X-Mix has this really nice combination between really rough drums and bass and super nice strings and other elements on top which are kind of futuristic – that’s my favourite kind of music,” explains Christian enthusiastically.

You can clearly hear those influences on Skywae more clearly today. The record and the three preceding it, is as much an homage to that era, as it is Christian finding his feet in that sound. It was there all along, it seems, he just needed the time and patience to develop it and now he’s confidently arrived at the point. He might still find fault in his music, nitpicking over details, but Skywae is an archetype of a classic House record if there ever was one, and one that can certainly stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of them. 

 

And now for something different with Switchdance

Marco Antão is still settling into his new digs in Kristiansand. The Portuguese-Goan producer and DJ is planning to spend half the year in Norway and the other in Lisbon for the foreseeable future and the last six months have kept him busy.  “I brought a lot of synths and I built my studio here,” says Marco over a telephone call from the house he shares with his girlfriend. He is enjoying the opportunity to “make music with an amazing view” and it’s already starting to bear creative fruit.

Prostaglandin E1 is the first track to have come from this new space. Made for a Portuguese compilation, the track is a moody tech track, built on minimal foundations with designs on the club floor. A female humanoid vocal works its way through the metallic sheen of the first few bars and into mystic dimensions carried on the melody of a harmonic scale. 

“The vocals are from my girlfriend,” Marco tells me in a kind of nonchalant way.  I pry for more details. “I was kind of stuck on the track with a deadline,” claims Marco and the track needed some extra elements, so he asked his girlfriend; “can you try some vocals?” The fortuitous impulse turned out to be the right choice, imposing a human imprint on Prostaglandin E1 that gives the track an accessible and sensory dimension. 

It’s the latest release in a decade-long career. It’s one side of the multifaceted DJ and artists sonic aesthetic which can move from the kosmische realm of downtempo Balearics to the energetic inclinations of a club floor. “I have my dark cosmic synth music side,” reiterates Marco only to contrast it with; “I’m a resident at Lux Frágil, so I have this fun club version of myself too.” These aspects converge on records and sets that have made Switchdance a household name in Portugal even in lieu of his associations with Lux Frágil. 

Switchdance has been a resident of the famous Lisbon nightclub for the last 12 years and his history with the club is a “long story” he claims. Nonetheless he indulges me. 

Marco had been a loyal patron of the club since he first started going out. He remembers waiting in “long queues outside of Lux” as an 18 and 19 year old during a period shortly after when the club was changing over from one instance into the next. Reinventing itself from Frágil, the “first gay-friendly House club in Lisbon in the 80’s” to Lux around 1998 it built on the legacy of one generation to the next as Marco came of age. 

“Around 2008” the club thought it was about time for a change again and “wanted a new resident.” Lux had “had the same residents since the beginning” according to Marco, and they were looking for some fresh blood to infuse the next phase of the club. Lux “held a contest” in which the winner would receive a six-month residency and 12 years later that winner, Switchdance, is still a resident.  

As a fixture of the club today, Marco likes to explore the more obscure sides of the dance floor. “Next Friday I’m playing with Vladimir Ivkovic,” he says by way of  an example. He offers a “more electronic and alternative” approach to the club music that dots the club’s roster and it’s something he is able to adapt that freely over Lux’s two floors. “If I play upstairs, I can play anything I want,” he says. This will include everything from “rock and David Bowie to club music and Italo disco.” In the club he can get “more introspective,” and play to a more engaged audience. “Downstairs is not a place to talk” after all. 

Listening back to a 2019 set from Switchdance recorded live “downstairs,” it seems that there is a certain freedom to the programming at Lux. The mix is slow and brooding with a melancholic mood underpinning the sounds of his selections. Marco looks back on the night and his set fondly. “I had the right crowd to play slow so it was one of my best nights,” he remembers. The packed dance floor, which can take up to a 1000 people was bristling form the first track and by the end of his set “everybody was dancing” reminisces Marco. 

“It was an amazing experience,” and it suggests something of the Lux audience’s attitude to electronic club music.  At the same time there is something in the contrast between the different styles that permeate through Lux that corresponds to Marco’s music. Turning back  time through Switchdance’s discography from Prostaglandin E1 to The Black Tape record, we find two distinct sounds emerging; one trained on the dance floor and one meandering on the fringes of club music. Is this the influence of Lux at work?

“I can’t say I’m 100% influenced,” replies Marco, “but I’m always imagining playing the tracks there.” His Lisbon-based studio is only 2 minutes down the road from the iconic nightclub and he will often go down to the club to test a track out on the sound system – which he claims bares striking similarity to Jaeger’s

At the heart of Switchdance’s sound as an artist however is not heightened club-informed sound like you might find a big room, but something more meditative; a sonic identity that is clouded in mystery and something almost mystic, born from a love of synthesis. “I’m addicted to synths,” says Marco who says; “all my money goes to synthesisers and red wine” in a breathy laugh. 

As a child of the eighties myself, I can understand the obsession. Growing up with the evocative sounds of the synthesisers in the background in your youth, that sound stays with you. In Marco it has only matured with him through the years as an artist and you can still hear its effects in his music.

“For example on The Black Tape, you can hear some 80’s italo influences,” explains Marco. Those early influences start with “listening to a lot of synth pop, like Depeche Mode.” Taking a slight detour through Goth as a teenager he came back to pure synthesiser music during “the boom of electro music in the early 2000’s.” Legowelt and the Dutch scene were a touchstone during that time, and you can still hear that influence clearly in Switchdance’s first appearance on Boiler Room back in 2013.

It marks an approach that is vast and open today as an artist, but centred around the synthesiser and moving far beyond the strict parameters of the preset menu. There’s something alien in Switchdance’s music that comes from the unusual sound palette he creates in his music. The nature of the vocals from Prostaglandin E1 is a great example as it moves from a kind of eerie android to digital automaton through the course of the track. It’s clearly processed through a vocoder, but not like anything you’re likely to have encountered before.

It’s a sound that has followed him since his early days, when he was still known by SWITCHST(d)ANCE. Through a very reserved release schedule it has evolved without drastically changing and today we find a definitive sound in the music of Switchdance.

In recent years this sound has even garnered a wider appeal with heavies like Harvey and Dixon getting behind the music of Switchdance through two compilations compiled by the DJ luminaries featuring the artist’s music. With Arabian Ride on Harvey’s Mercury Rising and O Amolador finding its way on Dixon’s Secret Weapons compilation for Innervisions, Switchdance has found favour with some of the DJ- and club community’s most respected tastemakers. 

It was specifically the Innervisions association that “was a huge kick” for Marco’s career with a “big buzz” around the track as it climbed the charts. It seems Dixon “really likes” Switchdance, but Marco stops short of mentioning any specific partnership with the popular label for the future. 

Now that Marco is spending six months of the year in Norway, he is rather striving to “connect with the scene” here. His familiarity with artists like Charlotte Bendiks, Skatebård and Lindstrøm as DJs he’s played with in Portugal has seen him make in-roads. Since moving, he has played Hærverk in Oslo and Vaktbua in Kristiansand and with an appearance at Jaeger next Friday, he is already making strides in Norway’s scene. 

He’s received very positive feedback from the crowd here with people commending his alternative approach to the dance floor. He feels he is still able to convey a lot of what he does at Lux Fragil to other audiences and in Norway he’s already found a receptive audience with people coming up to him to say “I never saw somebody playing this type of music here.” 

With set times being the only real constraint here, he’ll have to compress what he does through a night at Lux, but whatever it is, it’s sure to be different. 

You know what’s up with Anders Hajem

The history of dance music-collectives stretch as far back as the earliest days of club music. They’ve come in and out of vogue with the peaks and valleys of electronic music’s popularity. Few stand the test of time as egos emerge and personalities clash, but some are successful. They eventually form record labels, and while some members might eventually move on to greater things, it’s while standing on the shoulders of the collective and in rare cases it’s these individuals that strengthen the resolve of the collective as a unit as they rise up together.

I believe Boring Crew Records (BCR)  is such a collective and that Jens Wabø (Perkules), Henrik Villard and Anders Hajem are on the cusp of establishing BCR as a significant entry in the annals of collective history in dance music. A collective however is always better as the sum of its parts, and in BCR we have three producers and DJs that have found an uncanny kindred spirit. Each brings his own strengths to the collective, which in turn has offered the springboard for them all to succeed individually. Anders Hajem is no exception. 

A slew of releases on BCR under his given name and as Clastique as well as a release for Full Pupp has established Anders as the busiest producer in the BCR collective at this moment. In December he released his sixth record for the label, Kjoret Gaar Volume 1, which establishes a new series of releases with an objective crystallising on the dance floor around the 6 tracks. They’re “just raw and dancey tunes with no more thought put into it,” explains Anders about the concept of the mini LP. “The thought is to release more in the same style and I hope to get volume 2 up and running by the end of 2022, maybe with some remixes this time. The plan is to release Kjoret Gaar projects on bandcamp and let people pay what they want and hopefully we’ll be able to release it on vinyl at some point.”

Anders is pleasant and polite when we sit down for a chat. His thoughtful approach to music is counterpointed by a youthful exuberance that lies behind a tempered visage, under a peak cap. His release schedule is eager, but the music doesn’t sound rushed or impulsive. Rather there’s a maturity that belies his 26 years and his relatively recent introduction to club music. 

Anders grew up in Ål, a town “in the middle of nowhere,” in the centre of Norway. The town has “one music store where they sell guitars and other equipment” and with a father that “listened to a lot of deep Purple and Led Zeppelin,” Anders naturally gravitated towards the guitar as a “main instrument” from a young age. He cut his own path through the hairy world of rock, listening to modern day guitar heroes like “Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age.” At a mere ten years of age, he started taking music at school and soon set about playing in bands around his hometown. 

The guitar shop “helped a lot for a small community” like Ål to establish something of a music scene, but electronic music remained a fleeting curiosity and an unknown entity for the young Anders. He had only been exposed to “the tip of the iceberg of electronic music” at home and it was mostly the kind of “cheesy” electronic music we associate with the radio today. “I had some friends that lived in Oslo and had gone to raves, but I never got into that when I lived in Ål,” he remembers. Those friends were mainly into Psytrance and Anders “just didn’t get it.“ It conflated his experience of club music and raves with people clad in loose fitting hemp and stomping along to triplet bass measures in a forest somewhere, but that was all set to change when he eventually moved to Oslo to study sound engineering. 

“When I moved to Oslo, that changed my perspective on electronic music,” says Anders in a serious monotone. He had already been listening to electronic music. The likes of Todd Terje and indie electronic acts like Rival Consoles had piqued his interest in electronic music, but that type of “dreamy synth electronic” music had never made it past the album format however and the club experience still eluded Anders for a time. Spurred on by Todd Terje and his new fascination for synthesisers, Anders eventually started going out in Oslo and it was the formative club experiences, “especially Villa and Jaeger,” where Anders became more “connected to that  kind of music.”

“Once I found out there were a lot of underground genres,” says Anders “it just opened up for me.” He dove deep, bought his first synthesiser and phased the bands out of his life. He realised “electronic music was easier to make on your own” and started making rudimentary synthesiser music.  His first attempts were little more than a drum machine and a single synthesiser as he tried to emulate the likes of Todd Terje and Boards of Canada. You can still hear some those influences in a newer track like 6AM.

He “dove deeper into electronic music and discovered Motorcity drum Ensemble, Gerd Jansen and Honey Dijon” through Boiler Room sets, but it was ultimately when he met Jens Wabø that everything would fall in place for his work as a producer and his skills as a DJ.

“We have a 5g connection,” says Anders through a grin. “Jens is one of those guys I just love playing with.” Anders had been getting into making House music, through Lo-Fi – “it sounded easier to make and not that polished” – but he had not yet gotten the hang of DJing by the time he met Jens. ”Jens was into Djing” however and after a crash course, Anders too “got the hang of it, and fell in love with it.” Once they were more comfortable playing together, they played their first gig at Villa and then the pandemic hit. 

Young enthusiasts like Jens and Anders were stopped dead in their tracks during what would be the prime of any producer and DJ’s career. They could’ve resigned their attempts to the bedroom studio and streaming DJ sets, but they proved to be more industrious than most. They shared a studio and when they weren’t making music, they were DJing.

“We were just hungry for more and started playing at the studio.” Anders then met up with the “rave kids” from back home, whose own tastes had matured beyond Psytrance and incorporated House and Techno too. “They joined and helped out a lot in reaching people” through their concept Rave at Bricks, and eventually those studio sessions grew into small parties that helped establish BCR. 

More “friends joined in on it and it turned into a little community” with Henrik Villard forming a significant piece of the puzzle in establishing BCR as a label. “He helped us just from the experience he had releasing a lot of tunes,” explains Anders. Henrik’s experience in the industry gave them the confidence to establish BCR as a label and in 2021 they released their first record with Anders as Clastique breaking new ground for the trio.

They continued to host parties alongside releases from the collective. In the summer of 2021, while we were still in the midst of the pandemic, “they brought the  speakers outside and played loud and people came.” It  gave people “a place to go,” during a time of lockdowns, “even if you were just six people in the studio drinking beers and listening to good music.” And what do BCR define as good music? “I don’t think we had a sound in mind, but it is based on House music,” answers Anders. ”We love Techno too, but there is a lot of Techno in Oslo and we love House music more so…” BCR established itself as a House music collective.

It’s House music as inclusive as it can be and you can hear it throughout Anders’ own discography. From the broken beats of “Reminiscence” to the soothing melodies of “6AM” to the outer reaches of the Giorgio Mordoder-like sequences running through “Velvet Disco,” Anders Hajem makes House music defined by over 30 years of history informing the genre. Kjoret Gaar Volume 1 is a perfect example of that in its own right, and even while Anders is completely focussed on the dance floor on this release, it’s a broad and inclusive view of the dance floor. 

It’s an attitude that he transported to Full Pupp last year with Flint Eastwood and arriving between a heavy rotation of BCR releases, 2021 was a year of great creative output from Anders Hajem. It only seems to be hitting its stride in 2022. With another release primed for Tromsø outfit Mellom, a desire to have more external artists feature on BCR, and more events planned for the BCR collective, including their residency at Jaeger, 2022 might just see the return of House music in Oslo, spearheaded by this concept. “It’s great to have the opportunity to create that environment for that kind of music to blossom in the Oslo scene,” remarks Anders and as an individual and a collective at the forefront of this burgeoning scene, there is certainly a new and youthful impetus for it to thrive. 

Anders hopes that it will reach a point where “if you know there’s a BCR party, you know what’s up” and that we can safely assume will relate to any releases coming from the collective and Anders’ solo projects. There is something distinct yet still opaque about BCR and Anders Hajem and in due time it will reveal itself as a determinable force in Oslo’s House music scene. 

 

Peering through WINDOWS with Vinny Villbass

We interview Vinny Villbass ahead of his newly commissioned live show WINDOWS, which arrives with the return of the dance floor at Jaeger

*Photos by Lina Jenssen

Like many of us, Håkon Vinnogg (Vinny Vilbass) spent the pandemic staring out his window. With nightlife effectively closed and days consumed by low temperatures and an energy crisis,  we could do little more than cocoon in quilted hovels, waiting out the latest phase of the pandemic. 

We were caught up in a streaming algorithm, looking out through a digital portal, between episodes of syndicated South Korean television. We’d resigned ourselves to our sofas with glimpses of Netflix interrupting instagram celebrity cats. The feeds lay uninterrupted ahead of a dark January and we were free to plug in and tune out completely. 

Some of us however found new inspiration in these feeds and decided to tune in rather than opt out. Håkon was such a person and assuming his Vinny Villbass moniker, he put those “inputs” to work. He had the sense to stop for a moment, press pause on whatever streaming platform, and look out of his window a little longer. Soon he was whisked away, day-dreaming of a time beyond the pandemic. 

He started thinking about music and what it would be like when the time comes for the dance floor to open again. Taking those ideas into the studio, a project started to emerge and that project is called WINDOWS. “It’s about being bored, wanting to express yourself and getting some energy out,” he says about the project over a cup of coffee.

At the time of talking to Håkon, the 1m rule is still in place and the whole ambiguity around the arbitrary rules still perplexes, but WINDOWS and its creator is ready for the inevitable return to the dance floor. WINDOWS is a live show specifically created with Jaeger in mind and it will be performed for the first time this Frædag

We caught up with Håkon to talk about the live show, the pandemic and the state of club culture beyond the pandemic with some familiar themes running through the conversation as we peer through some windows with Vinny Villbass. 

*limited presale tickets available via ticketco

Tell me about WINDOWS. Is it an album and/or a live show?

There might be an album, but this is designed to express the re-opening of society. 

People in cities all around the world have been living within their four walls, looking out their windows. They even get tired of Netflix, because they’re more excited about seeing the neighbour’s cat on the balcony. All the music was produced during a time when the window was important. That’s why I called it WINDOWS. 

…And a window could be anything. It could be an algorithm on Spotify. It’s what you’ve seen, that world you’ve been pressured into living these couple of years. 

Was the concept there before you started making the music?

It was kind of more like a reflection afterwards. I didn’t sit down to make WINDOWS. It was more; what’s the common thing about these tracks? It’s all related to the inputs I’ve been getting during the pandemic, which has been limited. You have tv, and radio algorithms, and the small physical window that you see the neighbours through, and you start reflecting how people in the building next to you live their lives. It’s my way of expressing the fantasy. 

It seems there was a literal aspect, where you would be listening to other music, and that it might have influenced what you were doing. Was that a conscious aspect of this work?

Definitely… The whole world of music is copies and trying to make copies in a different way. Look at David Bowie. He was taking from the best and making it better. I guess that’s what everybody tries to do. Imagining that you are completely free of all inputs; that you have full creative freedom, I don’t believe that’s true. These days the inputs are very controlled by the market.

That’s got to be difficult to balance, trying to make something that will be relevant and yet be completely unique. 

Also in club dance music, there’s also this functional side of it that you need to consider. It’s related to where you are performing and how many people are there. There’s a social functional aspect that you need to have in the back of your head when you are making dance music. 

Did you have Jaeger in the back of your mind when you were making WINDOWS?

Yes, because I guess Jaeger has been the centre of dance music in Oslo. During the pandemic you’ve been looking forward to your next gig at your local club. I think  during the pandemic the club scene has become more local. I don’t think we’re going back to huge tours, travelling over the planet, if not just for the sake of climate change. 

This is a conversation that has cropped up frequently since the pandemic. I believe that the big names will be travelling as per usual, (and we’ve seen that starting to happen already), but it’s going to be those mid level DJs, who perhaps play away every second weekend, that will be the most affected by this. 

It might go both ways. You saw the club scene before the pandemic, which was starting to become quite boring with the same lineups at festivals. All those small artists weren’t even considered, because they don’t have enough soundcloud or instagram followers to become part of the circus. 

That made people think more in terms of a collective. Smaller groups of people, maybe even in different countries visiting each other. These small networks started to thrive, and I do hope that after the pandemic these small networks that find themselves through the internet, is going to be the biggest part of the club scene. 

I’m worried that most of the places that survived the pandemic will go back to booking, to avoid the risk of not pulling in an audience. 

Will they be able to afford the bigger names? Who knows, we might be back to normal in half a year. People are very adaptable. 

And in your case… You were playing abroad before the pandemic and playing regularly. How has it affected you?

For me, the whole touring aspect has always been more social. I’m more on the collective side of it. I want to play at a place, because I know there is somebody that has similar tastes. 

I’ve never been tempted to tour and play big clubs and festivals where you never get to meet people, and have no time to see the city. I think it’s very important that when you come to a new city as a DJ, you need to know the social factors of that city to understand wh

at to play. 

Seeing as you made the WINDOWS show specifically for Jaeger, did you have a specific night in mind?

It was more like the utopia of playing at Jaeger again.

That must have informed the way the live set was going to sound.

I don’t know if it’s so specific to Jaeger and a certain date. I think it’s more my imagination, how people would react, coming back. It’s much fast

er than anything I’ve done before. It’s all about the inner-punk wanting to get out and giving people some energy. 

How different is it from your previous recorded works?

It’s much more Housey and a lot more repetitive at 128 BPM. I’ve always been in the middle of the electronic sounds and the acoustic sounds of the dance floor. 

Speaking of WINDOWS specifically, I’ve been listening to a lot of African music and Turkish music, during the pandemic. I really feel that these cultures have much more deep-seated dependency on the human element. 

Will these organic sounds be more prominent in the live set?

It’s going to be a combination of these organic and more functional Techno rhythms. I’ve always played synthesisers live to get that human touch. So the human element will always be in my music. It’s hard to say, but it’s not exactly inspired by Turkish or African music. It’s just the randomness of my fantasies.

Is there a central theme to the sound of the music, based on those ideas?

It’s just classic House music and not being afraid of clichés either. Because in functional music there is a reason African rhythms have worked for 1000’s of years. It’s rhythm patterns that are well known to the human body and in House music, if you have a steady rhythm, you can put anything on top of it. 

Can we expect some gospel vocals?

Not for this project, but perhaps my own vocals. 

So there might be some lyrical content?

I haven’t decided yet. I’ll leave some of it up to improvisation. Something special happens when you go on stage. Then all the rhythms come to you more naturally and everything seems so natural and you dare to do stuff you don’t dare to do in front of two very precise studio monitors. 

It’s all fantasy. Not that there is anything directly connected to it. Let’s see if my imagination of the opening will be the same as the others. It’s going to be an exciting project. Have people been longing for the same things as me?

From our most recent experience, people seem very excited. Then again, people are a bit more hesitant to start a dance floor, as opposed to the summer last year. 

Do you think that’s the regulations or a social anxiety?  

A bit of both.

Actually these stupid dance regulations, reminds me of a time I first played in New York. This was with diskJokke around 2008. It was when Rudy Giuliani was mayor and there was a rule that you needed a dance licence. 

We started playing and I fetched a drink from the bar, dancing on the way over. A dude came over and told me I can’t dance. I thought he was referring to my skill, and he explained that there’s no dancing allowed, because of the dancing licence. 

Here we are playing dancing music and you’re not allowed to dance, and that’s like putting somebody in jail in my opinion.

Yes, it’s that last vestige of freedom, that freedom to move to a beat. It’s something instinctive as a form of liberation, and by clamping down on it, I can’t help but feel there’s this underlying conservatism seeping through those kinds of regulations. What’s quite striking is how they’ve maintained this bit of arbitrary regulation, not just here, but in Europe too, while everything else goes back to normal. 

It’s a fucking disaster. The only thing you need to give people is some personal space, but don’t take away people’s possibility to move… that’s dark.  

I feel however, that in club culture, this is, or at least was, an unspoken rule amongst most of us. You don’t dance on top of each other, and you respect each other’s space. 

Yes. Club culture became so big, because you could be free to go out by yourself. You were not stuck to dancing in couples. Just respect each other. 

Greetings from Jaeger: The start to the return of the dance floor

The time has come to get back to what we do best. After restrictions that forced us to close in December, there was a time of nervous uncertainty, as we stood waiting in some footloose purgatory for life to resume. We were happy when we could open again in January, but the sitting disco still doesn’t really sit well with us. It’s not what we were about and the novelty had worn off back in in the summer of 2020. We thought we were done with it.

It was a tough time, acquiescing to these measures, and trying to scrape out an existence on the brink. We managed with a little aid from big brother, but only barely. In the light of a new day all these regulations seems so arbitrary now, but I guess it’s easy to draw conclusions in hindsight. For now, let’s leave the politics at to door and revel in the fact that we can go dancing again!

No more table service or tempered chair boogie where we try to move in constrained motions as to not worry the powers that be. We’re clearing the dance floor to a point where we can appease the authorities, but if we’re to understand the prime minister correctly, even they are clueless as to where the line should be drawn. Our sauna is open and the gården is still warm with the new heating system we have installed, but we’re excited to be able to open the basement again in February. Work on the extended room has continued throughout the downtime, with a couple of extra 24″ subs to tweak the bottom end a little further and we’re ready to start hosting some international guests again.

All those bookings made pre-pandemic are stacking up alongside new ones made in 2021 that never came to fruition, so now in 2022 expect an onslaught of DJs visiting our sauna and basement booth in the near future. As always Frædag with g-HA & Olanskii provide Jaeger’s window to the world with a guest appearance every Friday going forward. In February that means a visit from Ross from Friends and Nastia as we slowly start filling up our calendar for the rest of 2022.

Our residents are back and local guests provide the variation in our week as we move from Techno to House, take a sojourn on the rocky breaks of Drum n Bass before heading off to balearic shores week in week out. Mandagsklubben remain the archetype as the oldest running night at Jaeger, while the week pivots around Frædag, where Øyvind Morken has taken on the role as defacto party starter for our weekend at Jaeger. Kicking off at 18:00, every Friday, he  Øyvind takes us on psychedelic journey on the fringes of “club music,” as only he understands the style of music.

Finnebassen is back; Lente is back; and MC Kaman is back! We’re still not quite ready to get back to 7 days a week, but Sundays are on the horizon for March in 2022. With a specially commissioned live show from Vinny Villbass and an exclusive dub Techno set from Prins Thomas it’s also a time of trying out new things at Jaeger.  You can check out the full programme here and keep an eye on our social media channels and website for late additions. We’re ready for a new phase and to put two years of uncertainty behind us. We just want to go dancing and we look forward to your company.

See you on the floor…

We’re back

Jaeger will be open again on the 20th of January with covid measures in place

Yes, we’re back… again. After we had to close our doors in December in accordance with the latest covid restrictions, we’re happy to announce that we can open again on the 20th of January 2022.

We’re still working under the auspices of covid restrictions and will only be allowed to be open between 18:00 -23:00 with table service only until the government and city re-evaluates the current restrictions. Our resident DJs will return to their residencies with some select guest DJs appearing alongside as we move towards a full reopening in what we hope we’ll be in the near future.

Alas there’s still no dance floor and it’s a bit like New York in the nineties, but there’s room for movement, and as long as people still enjoy this kind of music, we’ll endeavour to have a space for it. Please check our programme page for more details about the upcoming events.

Space is limited and it’s advisable to book your table ahead of time. We’ll be listing all our events on our ticketco page with options to buy tickets in our heated backyard ahead of the events. We’ll always endeavour reserve some tables for drop-ins and will try to accommodate those who arrive early.

We encourage social distancing and will serve all our guests at their table. There’s a handy app for that and our staff are very adept at the situation by this point.

Please bare with us however as weĺl be operating within these limitations, and we hope to get back to what we do best very shortly.

 

Art in activism – An interview with the anonymous dancer

We turn the attention to the dance floor to interview one of our regular patrons, and are astounded by what we find in this incredible individual and his work.

*Due to the sensitive nature of his work the subject of this interview has asked to remain anonymous. We ask that you respect his privacy.

When I see him, he is just a blur. He’s an inexhaustible source of energy and like many, I find myself gravitate towards him like a moth to flame. I’ve come to know him as the anonymous dancer that occupies the front of the DJ booth most Fridays. Some of the resident DJs have come to know him too. He doesn’t drink and he arrives early, securing a spot in front of the sauna where he’ll stay for the remainder of the night.

He’s uninhibited, always the first on the floor and often the last to abandon it. He’ll stop for a minute or two to have a conversation with a curious stranger, but he’ll get right back into it, as soon as the conversation lulls. Pumping his arms and jostling his feet, he is a frenzied movement of limbs that shows no fatigue.

Besides the odd greeting on arrival, I like to leave him to his own devices, and prefer to observe and admire his liberated movements as I sway in my own spot, some way off to the side.

Something of an enigma, he has been coming to Jaeger regularly for the past year. I’ve encountered him mostly on Fridays, but he’s no stranger to a Saturday jaunt on the tiles either. He came to us via DJ Charlotte Bendiks, but since then he’s become a welcomed presence at Jaeger, We’ve also come to know a little more of him as time progressed, and as is always the case there’s much more to him than meets the eye. So we’ve endeavoured to find out more about this remarkable man and his work.

Art in activism

“I like to be anonymous,” he says as we sit down for a conversation on a Friday afternoon. The coffee shop is an unusual setting and this is an unusual topic for any music-related media, but he immediately has my attention. I haven’t asked much about his life in the past, and was only made aware of his work within human rights through resident DJ, Ivaylo a short time before we decided to interview him.

He is a refugee and for over a decade he’s been working on educating people on the field of human rights through his organisation, Terram Pacis. “I founded it in 2010 and it’s basically my life,” he says over a large cup of hot chocolate. Terram Pacis is a non-profit organisation and he heads up each project personally. They’ve been granted special consultant status to the UN and work with various youth-oriented organisations. Working with communities in regions stretched from Sub-Saharan Africa to Eastern Europe, Terram Pacis’ main objective is to “advocate for human rights” with projects customised around specific problems.

He sees each project as “a work of art, where art becomes a form of activism” and approaches each project as a personal endeavour. “I need to see the problem and then that problem is a part of me,” he explains. There’s always an educational aspect to his work, whether he’s working with youth organisations or trying to inform older generations on the plight of the next. There’s a universal idea to “take people from different backgrounds and bring them into one space so they can learn together” and that can be applied to each project, regardless of the “problem” being addressed.

Terram Pacis “focusses on the rights that have been abused in the community rather than the broader human rights.” The organisation introduces people to the fundamental concept of human rights; their rights to protest and the due judiciary process, in an attempt to turn them into “human rights activists.” Then the “goal is to bring them to the same table” with other human rights activists in an effort to draw parallels to one another’s plight and instil the universal ideology of human rights.

“We can’t see human rights as one sided,” he stresses. “Excluding particular groups, because you are not interested in them, you can’t really call yourself a human rights activist. If we’re going to address gender-based violence for example, we then have to include everybody… an intersexed person might be 1 in 100, but that doesn’t mean you have to exclude them.” Part of his work with the UN for example is to challenge the type of language that exactly excludes these 1 in 100 minorities from the discussion.

His passion and dedication is humbling. Work consumes almost every minute of his waking life. He tries to limit “work hours” to 5 a day, but when you’re the founder of an organisation like Terram Pacis, your work consumes you. The only release comes by way of a dance floor. “Dancing is something that liberates me,” he says. “It’s a way for me to express who I am.” Whenever he goes to a new city, he seeks out a place to dance, and when he’s at home in Oslo, Jaeger is his first port of call.

It’s simply “easier to go to Jaeger,” and Fridays have particularly resonated with his own musical tastes. Fridays and Frædag offer him a “different kind of music and artists” and he’s specifically taken a real liking to “space disco” since moving to Norway. The “combination of disco and house music” appeals to his tastes “because it comes with different rhythms.” As somebody that enjoys dancing with his “mind” he prefers music where rhythms and beats vary, providing him with the mental stimulus to carry on dancing for “8 hours in a row.”

Growing up he wasn’t exposed to House music until came to Europe. Although Disco had been around, “people didn’t dance to Disco.” He was “listening to Jazz” in his youth. He prefers music with some meaning behind it and 60’s and 70’s Jazz created in that heated heart of the civil rights movement, was simply more accessible for a teen growing up in a post-war society. I don’t imagine there was much reason to dance back then.

Channeling the fear

He is somewhat reluctant to talk about those years, fearing it might get in the way of his humanitarian work, but he’s open to discuss it in general terms.

He was “very young when the war happened,” and yet one of the most tragic human events in recorded history and its aftermath is not something that leaves you likely. “It shapes who you are and end up becoming” and for him this has had a direct influence on his work today. He started “working with reconciliation” at a time when most of us were still just trying to navigate high school. Engaging young people with the same experiences, he sought to “shape a society that actually includes our ideas in the peace building process.” That’s when he started to become an advocate for human rights.

His work put him “in a problem with the government” and as a result he spent a stint in jail. When he got out, he moved to Norway as a refugee, setting in motion what would become Terram Pacis.

Between “human rights education, peace education and gender education” he is making a difference in the world, feeding on those experiences of his youth in an effort to affect important change. “You cannot overcome them,” he says of those experiences, “you just need to find a way to live them.” He prefers to channel those experiences into his work to “help people,” but it’s also been helping him. “I started my work to heal myself. You see the worst in humanity, and you also see the good, I chose to focus on the good.”

There’s a perpetual drive to what he does. Much like his dancing, he is constantly being encouraged forward in his work. I wonder if it’s the fear he might have felt during his youth. “In the beginning there is fear,” he answers. There’s “not enough food and not enough drinking water. You see people dying every day, and then fear becomes the norm. You’re no longer afraid because your mind and body is focussing on surviving.”

Today, “something is more important than that fear I had before. That’s where my optimism comes from – there’s nothing worse that can happen in my life that hasn’t happened before.”

That optimism has served him well in establishing Terram Pacis, but there are other aspects of his life where those experiences still affect him. For example, he has a “strange concept of friendship.” He always arrives alone whenever I see him and the brief encounters he has with those around him on the dance floor, never really mature into friendships or even friendly relationships. “If I have friends, I prefer them to not be in the same city,” he admits. “Being alone is what I understand.” He has little to no contact with anybody from his previous life, fearing for his and their safety, but it has done little to deter him to continue his work on human rights.

Liberation

Currently he has a few projects he is working on at the time of our conversation and the concerted focus he exudes while talking about them is quite infectious.

He talks eloquently about his work in projects that deal with subjects like internalised racism, the LGBT+ issue and the taboos around menstruation, making any problems the listener might be facing in his/her life feel trivial at best. He tries to engage the listener with subject matter in a language that is accessible from any perspective in an objective manner of speaking that makes you question why these issues remain prevalent in our society. And whenever I ask more searching questions about his personal harrowing experiences, he quickly turns the attention back to his work.

The last thing we talk about is his work in trying to eradicate the tax on menstrual products, and I find it hard to segue into a question about the night ahead. It seems so arbitrary now in the face of what he does for a living at Terram Pacis and his work seems a world away from the hedonistic associations the dance floor evokes. The dance floor doesn’t really compare to something like Terram Pacis, yet if it weren’t for the dance floor we wouldn’t have known about this incredible individual and his work. I’m suddenly reminded me of something I read recently; if there are more than two people in a room, you have politics.

We’ve been talking for an hour now, and I have more questions than what I have answers to, but I sense I might be testing the limits with this private individual. I greet him into the Oslo’s cold night only to see him later on the dance floor. He remains a blur.

 

Just the thought of it with Kim Dürbeck

We talk to Kim Dürbeck about Urchin remixes and his Vietnamese roots while we premiere a previously unreleased track from the artist.

Kim Dürbeck has been nothing short of prolific in the last two years. His Bandcamp account and Soundcloud page has seen a flurry of activity, cementing a new era for the producer and artist. It was all a means to an end during the lockdown period; “ to keep doing something while not DJing” as he explains over a telephone call. In its wake, however, it has created a new artistic phase for Kim. He’s in his hometown Sandjefjord when I call, about an hour and a half outside of Oslo, and yet Kim is no stranger to nightlife in Oslo.

A regular guest at Jaeger, he’s carved out a career based on his skills as a DJ that’s travelled far beyond the small and isolated coastal town of Sandefjord. He is one of the leading lights in an underground clubbing community that stretches across Norway and before the pandemic, he could often be found travelling the world with a record bag. Lately he’s focussed those skills and vast musical experience into his production work. Like many of his peers, Kim has been “stuck in the studio” these past two years and he’s been busy.

Urchin

“Would you like an unreleased track for the article,” he asks during our call. “A premier,” I suggest. “I have so many at the moment,” he says in nonchalant confirmation. He’s not boasting. Ensconced in his studio these past two years, surrounded by an arsenal of hardware synthesisers, drum machines and grooveboxes, he’s released a host of EPs on his own and contributed to compilations for HMD and the Vietnamese outfit Nhạc Gãy.

He’s been most active on Soundcloud and Bandcamp and coming via the latter he’s now also the first of possibly two remix packages for “Urchin.” André Bravo, Curtis Vodka, Cato Canari, JaJa Saine and Dustin Ngo contribute their interpretations of Kim’s Jungle-Acid original.The track, initially released two years ago, is something of a watermark in the career of Kim Dürbeck.

Urchin is a track that falls somewhere between the gaps of some left-field club genres. “It’s between Acid and Jungle,” says Kim by way of reiterating. Featuring a “simple break” that is also “not that aggressive” it’s not an easy track to pigeonhole. The Jungle element is there in the drums, and yet it is restrained. The lysergic 303 pledges its allegiances to Acid, but it almost disappears in the dense textures of the harmonies. The synthesised pad subdues the track even further, moving across the track in slow, swelling arcs of dirty noise.

It’s a track that “hit between different tastes” for Kim and he was justified when he found various ”friends” from different musical backgrounds drawn to Urchin. The Urchin remixes gave Kim the chance to “work with friends I don’t usually work with” and from André Bravo’s hefty Drum n Bass attack, to Curtis Vodka’s cut n paste trip through the dense sounds of Jungle, it covers a vast section of left-field broken beat music.

Alternative urban electronic music

Urchin and its remixes, as well as the tracks they bookend, has found Kim on a new trajectory in his music. “I always chopped a lot of breaks on my sampler when I was younger,” explains Kim “but I didn’t try to make proper Jungle like I do now.” Kim’s earlier releases would favour the more familiar constructions of European House and Techno. It would always have that raw machine driven component, but it’s only in the last few years that he’s started to explore the broken sounds of Jungle and IDM in his own music.

I wonder if it’s a reluctance on the part of Norwegian audiences to embrace these sounds that has seen him avoid these sounds in the past. He’s unsure. Although he feels that “it’s getting more open for it,” this style of music it’s still more popular outside of the country, and it’s been like that for a while.

As a kid growing up, with a foundation in Hip Hop, Kim was attracted to IDM and the British wave of artists coming from the ranks of warp et al, but he hardly found any kindred spirits in his love for this kind of music. “Most of my friends growing up didn’t like this kind of music,” he recalls, “and still today don’t like this kind of music” he adds with a tapering laugh.

Kim refers to this kind of music as an “alternative urban electronic” music with specific ties to the UK. It has much more in common with Hip Hop than the European tastes of House and Techno and in it he’s found a familiar language in which he can adapt to his own musical voice. Built from breakbeats and what he calls “errors”, Kim’s process still starts from the same machine-driven origins it always has. A live-improvisational jam between modular synthesisers, guitar pedals and computers lay the groundwork, and he never knows what will come from these sessions until they emerge from the chaos.

Kim likes to refer to his music as “art by accident” and you can hear it in its rawest form on the “Tools and Tracks“ release on Kim’s Bandcamp account. Lately however these accidents have yielded results closer to his youthful musical indulgences, than pandering to the trends around him and it’s not just something that’s cemented around his love for the sounds of IDM or alternative urban electronic music, but it goes even further back to his roots.

Finding a community

Kim Dürbeck has come full circle in more than just one way over the last two years. On the one hand, he’s been tapping into this raw, primal energy from his youth, while on the other, he’s going back to his Vietnamese diaspora roots.

Kim grew up in Norway to a Norwegian mother and Vietnamese father. In one of the Jaeger mix sessions, he talked about digging through his parents’ old tape collection, which included some Disco from his mother and “sessions” his father recorded on tape during Kim’s childhood. What these sessions were however has always eluded us…

It was “mainly Vietnamese folk music. Cai Luong, inspired by Chinese opera, but more at home,” explains Kim. The senior Mr. Dürbeck “was doing sessions every weekend with his friends” and would sing and write music for tape. Sometimes he would record sessions with guitar and mic with a lot of echo, which Kim says remind him of “Acid House.” “Tuned in half tones, it’s very different,” he explains.

Kim spent his childhood immersed in these tapes, laying the foundation for a rudimentary grasp of the production and mixing process. He cut and spliced his dad’s tapes together in mixtapes, laying the foundation for sampling techniques and Djing later on. These early Vietnamese roots lay largely untapped for the most part of Kim’s musical career however. Besides the odd annual celebration – one of which gave him his first DJ gig, playing Trance – there weren’t many who shared Kim’s interests at that point. While a burgeoning community of Vietnamese electronic music enthusiasts were waiting in the wings, Kim was largely left to his own devices and justifiably gravitated towards the Trip Hop, Hip-Hop, Trance, House and then Techno that his Norwegian peers favoured.

That all changed with social media as he started to find a larger Vietnamese diaspora producing and proliferating electronic music. It started with a “meme-account” he created, but blossomed beyond Internet humour and into music as he sought like-minded people.

“Being a Vietnamese diaspora, you search for other Vietnamese diaspora,” says Kim. It was “interesting to see people growing up just like you – doing music and being alternative.” Today there is a large community, spread all across the world, and Kim is certain it’s “mobilised.” We met a portion of this community in November when Levi Oi and Mobilegirl came to play alongside Kim for Oslo World, but the community stretches further and can be traced all the way back to Vietnam today.

Decolonising the dance floor

Through this extended social media network, Kim soon found more people like himself; people of Vietnamese ancestry living in the west, making electronic music. Most notably it was the introduction to Nhạc Gãy that set Kim off on a path to exploring these sounds again and becoming a vital part of this community. Besides Nhạc Gãy regular Dustin Ngo contributing to Kim’s Urchin remixes, there is also Kim’s contribution to the first Nhạc Gãy compilation.

“Nước Mắm Is My Holy Water” is raucous ensemble of drum machines and a folksy Vietnamese samples. It’s the first time you hear these two aspects of Kim’s youthful explorations combined, and the results are as intriguing as they are surprising. “It’s electronic music with vocals,”explains Kim of what constituted those early Vietnamese influences. “That’s why it fits so well in my jungle track for the Nhạc Gãy compilation.”

It all enriches that “collage of genres” that Kim likes to tap into when he makes music. More than that, it sympathised with Nhạc Gãy’s objective to decolonise the dance floor, as a strictly Vietnamese electronic music. It allows “access to the locals without going through the west,” according to Kim, but at the same time it’s not something that panders to exotic tropes like a library record or tourist CD. These are Vietnamese voices making electronic music in a broad sense, covering “electronic music in all genres.”

From the Jungle-infused Acid of Kim Dürbeck to the blistering Techno of Attiss Ngo on the compilation, there isn’t anything like a specific style of music that identifies these artists and their music or their nationality. It spreads as far in electronic musical styles and genrs as the Vietnamese diaspora they count amongst their ranks.

Looking towards the horizon

Kim “was supposed to go there and play” with the “Nhạc Gãy people” and initially the Oslo world line-up was also to include them “but because of covid” that never transpired. “So we had to book people from Europe.” Levi Oi and Mobilegirl certainly represented the larger community in full force. It looks like any future plans will have to be put on hold again as we face another season of covid restrictions and measures, but Kim is hopeful to get out there soon.

He continues to expand that network of friends he’s making across the world, when he’s not at home making music and he seems to be always busy on that front, as this premiere can attest. Besides producing, he’s also performing live as part of an ambient/techno trio in Sandefjord, “keeping the community alive” in the small town. He is also about to launch a new label with Larus Siguvrin, and Patås called Lek Rec, which will see the first releases come to the fore next year. At the same time he is currently working on the second remix package for Urchin while a hard-drive somewhere is bulging under the weight of music he’s created over the past two years.

As our conversation draws to a close, he excitedly tells me he’s “found a movie about Vietnamese Moroccan diaspora, and they have a very cool way of talking, mixing Arabic and Vietnamese.” …. “And just the thought of this is inspiring when it comes to music.” It will be curious to hear how this might develop and only time will tell.

There’s still clearly a lot more on the horizon for Kim Dürbeck; too much mention in a paragraph really, and it seems the pandemic has seen the artist hit a new stride, especially in music. He’s not only found a new perspective going back to the sounds of Jungle, but also a way to honour the sounds of his Vietnamese roots. From his tapes to those urban UK sounds, Kim Dürbeck is a melting pot of ideas at the moment and it seems to have no end.

 

A life of its own – Profile on Daniel Avery

Looking back through an old interview from 2013, Mischa Mathys attempts to frame the enduring appeal of Daniel Avery.

A lot has happened since 2013. Much has changed in the world of music, and especially electronic music. DJs have assumed rock-star status, travelling the world on their skills and almost every piece of music released today at the very least references electronic dance music tropes. Who would have thought back in 2013, that this music would be as popular as it is now and who would believe that by 2021 it would be inducted into popular culture in the way that it has. 

I certainly didn’t think that would be the case when I first interviewed Daniel Avery back in 2013. Even though he had just released Drone Logic, a very popular independent dance record, it was still a niche record.  Even in the dance music arena, fit fell between the gaps of a minimal Techno sound coming from Berlin and UK Bass coming out of London. Avery, although already well known and admired in DJ circles, was still fairly unknown outside of the UK before Drone Logic, but that was to change too. 

The record left an impression, perhaps even because it fell well clear of the trend-informed mark of the time, and Avery’s star rose accordingly, only justifying his finely honed skill as a DJ. Some 8 years later though, and I’m still listening to Drone Logic and we’re all too familiar with Avery’s craft in the booth. Yes, while things have changed, much has stayed the same, and the best of these, like Avery and Drone Logic have stood the test of time. 

“I got told early on by several people close to me that the only thing you can do is make something that is true,” Avery told The Big Takeover in an interview from earlier this year, and that sentiment reflects the work and the artist’s enduring appeal today. Four solo albums and a touring schedule that sees this in-demand DJ play all over the world week in and week out, and there is no denying that Daniel Avery’s truth, much like his music, resonates with the rest of the world. As he says in that same interview; “A true and an honest statement can never be beaten.”

I guess I like club music

Avery has come a long way from his adolescent indulgences. “I’d probably ask myself if I still had that Lostprophets CD I bought in my early teens…” Daniel Avery said if he could ask his younger self a question during that old interview. It was the allure of guitars that initially caught the young Avery’s attention growing up in Bournemouth. He ”grew up on things like droney, shoegaze music” according to a Dummymag interview which led to playing the bass guitar and by the age of 15, he was recording music via a 4-track recorder.  It was a “very rudimentary set up,” he claims in The Big Takeover interview today, “but the second I started doing it, something felt right about it.”

Call it a latent talent or innate ability, but Daniel Avery’s first foray into music would not come from making it, but rather listening to it and it took him some time to come to terms with electronic music in particular. As “a young, naïve kid,” he recalls in Dummymag, “all that was there in front of me was stag and hen parties playing dance music that I fucking hated.” 

While initially put off by the tawdry aspects of “club music” he eventually warmed to the idea when he started hearing DJs like Erol Alkan and Andy Weatherwall playing sets that crossed a line between the attitude of punk-rock and the more polished aspects of electronic club music. “Richard Fearless and Death In Vegas were a very early one as well, because I love Death In Vegas and went to see them, and he was playing this mind-expanding techno and electronica. And I was like, ‘you know what, I guess I do like club music.’” That affirmation not only endeared Avery to the sound of club music, but most apparently propelled him forward towards a career in DJing. 

Selling records or selling records

“I started playing warm-up sets around 2003, but even then, it simply felt like an extension of making mixtapes for my friends but on a bigger scale,” he told me back in 2013. Avery found an affinity in the ability to be able to “affect the mood of a room,” but more than that he was able to follow in the footsteps of people like Weatherall and Fearless, blending in new music with more experimental sounds for a largely listening audience. “I discovered I could play the stuff that was coming out at the time, like the first Interpol record or TV On The Radio, and then I could also play Neu! or Kraftwerk or Harmonia,” he told Dummymag. 

He assumed Stopmakingme as a DJ moniker and started playing around London, most notably as a nascent resident for Fabric. While the UK was moving towards Bass music and the likes of Riccardo Villalobos was establishing a new minimal sound in room 1 of Fabric, Avery was drawn to the harsher edges of Techno, that was beginning to form around the last remnants of Electroclash in room 2. “I do love the grittier end of it,” he says of the style of Techno he enjoyed at the time. “A fucking heavy break from a rave/jungle record will get me every time, but everything I do has a techno heart.“ That fluid approach cemented his style and took its cues from those archetypal DJs like Erol Alkan who started to take notice of the younger Avery, but more on that later…

Around the same time as he picked up Djing, he started working at a record shop in Farringdon, London. He grafted, selling records by day while honing his DJ skills by night. London came to know Stopmakingme, not from the music that was yet to come, but for his individual skills in the DJ booth. He became a regular favourite at the esteemed Fabric, and soon caught the ear of an international audience on his skills as a DJ alone. After a decade working the decks, he did eventually move into production. 

Talking to him in 2013, I asked why he had hesitated to release music. “I didn’t hesitate,” he claimed, ​​”it was just something I had never even thought about in the early days.” In the interview with The Big Takeover, he shines some more light on the subject, suggesting that his decision to start releasing music might have coincided with the closing of the record store in Farringdon. “I was really faced with this huge crossroads in my life,” he remembers. “I could either find another job selling other people’s records, or I could make records that were sold in these stores. It was a leap of faith, but it’s one I took, and I’m so glad I did.”

On the shoulders of giants

Releasing a few singles and EPs as Stopmakingme, he made music that offered to bridge that gap between indie bands and the dance floor, much like Weatherall did with his early work for Creation, but as the bands started moving away from guitars and towards drum machines and synthesisers, so did Avery and Stopmakingme had to be killed off, so Daniel Avery could be born again. 

“I look back on the Stopmakingme period as my ‘first band.’” he recalled in 2013. It was like a kid picking up a guitar for the first time and seeing what comes out. I listen back now and it all sounds so young and naive… because that’s exactly what it was. I switched to my real name at a time when it felt like I was finally able to actualise some of the sounds in my head and, with that, could begin to carve out something of my own style.”

Assuming his given name, and teaming up with his idol Erol Alkan, Daniel Avery carried on where Stopmakingme left off, both as a DJ and a producer. It called in a new era in music for the artist behind the moniker. With Erol Alkan as friend and mentor, Avery practically moved into Alkan’s studio, with Alkan providing the platform in Phantasy Sound and the tools in the form of the machines to record what would eventually become Drone Logic. 

The breakthrough record was an immediate success in club music circles, even though it completely broke with the zeitgeist of the time. Raw, heavy percussion and synth sequences running like freight trains through the arrangements was pure body music; but body music exploring the emotional depths of a mechanical soul. “The thing that draws me to this kind of music,” says Avery by way of explanation in The Big Takeover, “is the idea of taking machines, mechanical objects, and breathing some kind of human life into them – some kind of living soul or beating heart, and making them sing in that way.” 

He moved into a studio which shared the building with not only Alkan, but also Andy Weatherall. “Aside from being surrounded by a staggering record and synth collection,” he says about the experience in the Skinny, “ it’s just a very inspiring place with an ever-present creative atmosphere.” Even, inspired as he was, it would take five years for him to follow up Drone Logic with his next record, Song for Alpha.  

Unreal

“It’s been a year full of highlights,” said Avery in 2013. “Releasing the album felt like a big moment but the thing I’m most pleased about is that I feel more confident than ever as a DJ. I’ve always been proud of my sets, but I’ve really felt a significant gear shift this year. I feel like I could play for hours and hours in every city I visit.” 

In the five years between his first and his second record Daniel Avery’s reputation as a DJ preceded him wherever he went. Channeling the influences of the likes of Andy Weatherall, Fearless and Alkan, Avery found a distinct voice in the DJ scene. Techno remains at the heart of everything he does from the booth, with humanoid machines dictating the language, but it’s that “mind-expanding” experience that he first encountered with Fearless that has become central to his interpretation of the genre. His 2016 DJ Kicks mix stands testament to that. It’s a psychedelic trip through a labyrinth of electronic soundscapes unfolding in a cinematic plot-line. It doesn’t entertain any specific genre other than a broad Techno interpretation, and while the songs of their time the mood we encounter in that mix is timeless. 

“The music that interests me is the music that sounds unreal,” Avery told Interview magazine  about where his particular tastes lie. For Avery it’s “music that sounds like it comes from somewhere else entirely and grabs you by the hand and takes you somewhere that you haven’t really been before,” and that is reflected in his DJ sets. In those early influences he seems to have carved out a unique sound that sets him apart from his predecessors, while at the same time offering a fitting tribute to the legacy left by Andrew Weatherall

Get lost

After that, “it became almost a necessity to be in the studio,” Daniel Avery told Interview around the time his second LP was released. Looking for “somewhere that feels totally different to a nightclub,” he set about making “Song for Alpha,” an LP that picked up where Drone Logic left off, while at the same time consolidating Avery’s love for those psychedelic sounds, and the quest for the dance floor. “I’m just a huge fan of psychedelic music…I just like music in which you can get truly lost.”

Getting enough distance from his debut LP, Song for Alpha is a truly different beast, although it retains some of that elusive visceral appeal of Drone Logic, even elaborating on it. “I just realised very early on that I wasn’t interested in saying the same thing again,” he explained in Interview. In the five years since releasing Drone Logic, that “youthful urgency” he displayed, had calmed and matured. Song for Alpha not only indicated a significant change, but it set the benchmark for the next 3 years, which saw Avery release two more LPs, a collaborative LP with the legendary Alessandro Cortini, and a host of EPs and remixes too. 

Song for Alpha and the succeeding Love + Light saw Avery taking a very different approach to his sound with atmosphere playing a significant role in his music. That visceral feeling he achieved in the bold rhythms of Drone Logic, he now transposed to melody and harmony as synthesisers came together in vivid orchestrations. In the two part record Love + Light it’s particularly striking as Avery moves from the impulsive dance floor to the serene tranquility of an ambient record. Love + Light did more than just tie a narrative between the beginning and the end of that record, it also offered a bridge between Song for Alpha and the follow up record, Together in Static.  

Starting life as a concept for a show, Together in Static marks the latest in Daniel Avery’s discography, showcasing, yet another side to the artist,; a reflective side, with more than just corporeal impulses dictating the mood. “It started to form,” explained Avery in The Big Takeover, “this idea of making something specific for the show that was more ambient-leaning and toward the quieter side of what I do.“ There’s no doubt that the pandemic played a significant role in this objective for an album conceived in 2021, but yet again shows Avery able to adapt, without succumbing to the zeitgeist. 

A life of its own

“I feel, right now, as if what I’m creating is a sound I’ve been striving for ever since I started,” he believes, but all the elements that constitute his appeal are still very much there, even in this latest record. The idea that “robot music” must “have a human heart” continues to be a recurring theme in his work, but now it’s able to modulate between the dance floor and a pair of headphones. 

“The best DJs take things from different genres and make them sound like they’re from the same world,” Daniel Avery told the skinny back in 2016, and with Together in Static it’s a sentiment he can still apply to his production work too. 

It’s not 2013 any more, it hasn’t been for some time, but Daniel Avery remains consistent in his ideologies. Although the music has changed and the audience has gotten younger, he remains, and the ideas that shaped Drone Logic and his earlier sets are still intact, unwavering in the presence of whichever contemporary trend. Despite, or perhaps in spite of that, Daniel Avery has shaped his career into legacy today, walking in the footsteps of those he idealised back when he was starting out. His ability in the booth is unmatched and his music continues to draw new fans to his work. 

“Creating something that can be shared around the world and that’s got a life of its own even when I’m gone,” is something Avery said he strived for in The Big Takeover. Today, as we discuss his debut LP and the fact that everything we talked about in 2013 can still be applied, the sentiment runs true. 

* Pre-sale tickets available here.

It’s just too loud with Third Attempt

*photos by Mats Gangvik

In an interview originally posted from the now defunkt formant page, Third Attempt talks about his debut LP during the midst of the pandemic.

Through shimmering pads, the faintest echoes of white noise, and an oscillating sine wave a woman’s voice appears out of the sonic mist that opens Third Attempt’s debut LP. “The world is just too loud,” she says in a lo-fi murmur, before cutting out and disappearing into the wave of a rolling bassline. The short vignette introduces the album and its title, setting a tone for a record searching for some quietude on the fringes of the dance floor.

“I had to get out of my comfort zone,” says Torje Fagertun Spilde (Third Attempt) over a telephone call from his hometown of Tromsø, where the situation with the coronavirus has been exacerbated by excessive snowfall, burying its inhabitants in a moist white blanket of uncertainty every day. “I don’t think you would want to be here now,” he says through a sigh. “It’s very depressing,” but the phone call finds in him good spirits at least and when I delay to inform him that I’m recording this conversation, he says; “What would happen if I said no, now(!)” with a jocular guffaw.

In some clairvoyant mistake, World is too loud couldn’t come at a better time. With an eerie quiet consuming Europe’s dance floors and many people sequestered indoors, Torje’s debut LP as Third Attempt has unwittingly found some sympathy with a world that is currently being bombarded with a silent war raging at a microscopic level. It is a remarkable coincidence, but the ideas and the circumstances that shaped the album has found some sympathy with the world as it is now. The idea was to “create a listening record,” explains Torje. Using “slower tempos,” closer to the music he would be “listening to at home,” rather than the kind of music that would usually find its way into his DJ sets, he wanted to get back to the more organic elements in music with a record he prides on being versatile. 

A fresh start

Torje has been refining a sound from the DJ booth as Third Attempt since 2017, after a ”fresh start” from the work he’d been doing under two previous aliases. Deep chords, intricate pads and elastic bass lines, converging around predetermined moods and tempos had laid the groundwork for Third Attempt’s records, with music that would drift between unraveling House beats with a striking use of melody and harmony. But for World is too loud he wanted to get some distance from this style of music. 

After a successful slew of records for Tromsø’s Beatservice Records, the producer has channeled these aspects of his sound into slower tempos, conjuring a very different sound from his previous records, while retaining that distinction of the Third Attempt approach. The record gestated at a time when club music wasn’t “cutting it anymore” for the Norwegian producer. “I felt I overdid it,” says Torje who “doesn’t feel it’s intriguing anymore” as an artist and an enthusiast. He has been growing increasingly bored with the cookie-cutter House that he was experiencing on the dance floor each weekend. He calls it “Toro brownie House,” referring to the popular Norwegian instant brownie mix, and says his “wake-up call” arrived one weekend on the dance floor when he realised “I heard this track last weekend, and I don’t even like it.” Torje didn’t want to be just another cog in the faceless horde, making music with the singular perfunctory intent of the dance floor. “I don’t want to sound like everybody else,” he exclaims delightedly, “because who am I then?”

He was looking for a way to get back to the soul of House music and started “listening to stuff outside the electronic spectrum to gain a different perspective.” It was late last summer and then “something just clicked” for the producer, but he didn’t quite arrive at the sound of the record completely in isolation. Working with the fundamental ideas that would inform the album, Torje only had a “half-assed beat” before collaborating with his “good friend Håkon (Struve)” on the two tracks that would become Shift and Rotor. 

A different flavour

Håkon (Leaf Pile & Sidewalk), a “very talented guitarist” coming from psych rock and garage traditions, had met Torje on the dance floor. The pair found that they had “a lot of things in common” and became fast friends. When Håkon acquiesced to his friend’s request and added some live instrumentation on his pedestrian beats, he brought “a totally different flavour” to Torje’s tracks. The result was Rotor and Shift, with the rest of the album coalescing around those two tracks, before moving to an ambient atmosphere. 

Shift and Rotor, introduces a new organic element to Torje’s sound that we’d not experienced on his previous EPs much. Evolving chord progressions and wispy tails of melodic and harmonic threads flit between funky synthesisers and anxious guitars as Third Attempt wrestles a primordial sound from rigid computer systems. “I just wanted more of a human feel,” explains Torje. While his music is still largely coaxed from within the computer, Torke admits “the machine stuff can become very tiring,” and for this album he specifically “wanted to pursue the soul aspect of things.”

While Håkon’s guitar played an important role in bringing this element to the fore in the beginning, sampling too played another important role in applying that “human” touch to this record. Sampling “old soul and funk records” Torje could create a virtual band from his “closet studio,” where he could impose that human feeling on the mutable structures and formulas of contemporary electronic music, “It comes from a human,” he says referring to the samples “and that’s important because that’s flavour.”

Torje would create his bass lines around these samples, imposing the soul and funk aspects on the relationship between the percussion and the synthesised bass, which has that indefinable tether that ties this LP to the EPs that came before it. The “communication between the rhythm and the bass is probably how I start making a track,” according to Torje, which retains that tether to the dance floor and ThirdAttempts  electronic roots during World is too loud. There are two distinct sides that appear through the course of the album. While Shift and Rotor established the organic approach in the realm of soul and funk, it would move into the more abstract electronic hemisphere by the time Longing reaches our ears.

Glimmers of nineties ambient music emerges, calling to mind the likes of orbital with pads floating through an uneven path of bass drums and snares. Melodies converge and dissipate into the distance as textures evolve through arrangements in reflecting pools of sound that languish in a serene disposition. Displacing the funk with atmosphere, but keeping that organic touch, World is too loud is a record of two very distinct sides, but very much of the same coin. “If the whole album was like that,” says Torje referencing the two tracks he recorded with Håkon “it wouldn’t be the same.”

Feeling over movement

It’s at this point a narrative begins to emerge with the title of the album exposing some hidden thread with the world around it. “The end of the album is more for the feelers than the movers.” It creates a bridge between the dance floor and the morning after. “Atmosphere is probably the number one thing for me,” says Torje. “It’s important to get right, because you can create so much movement and so much feeling, just by a pad laying there.” While atmosphere has been a consistent presence in his music, since establishing the Third Attempt moniker, in the slower tempos and mood he conjures on World is too loud it’s emphasised. In the context of the record, a theme emerges with Torje shutting out any outside influence and retreating into the music. 

It’s “almost therapeutic,” transporting the artist “somewhere else” on the echos of a sample he had stored away in his library. The sample, taken from the movie makes another appearance in Prelude after the introduction, and while it’s not “important what movie it’s from” the line resonated with Torje and on a subconscious level it was the “perfect” platitude to frame the circumstances behind the creation of the LP. 

“Thinking outside the box was really helpful to me,” says Torje, who found himself not only disengaging with the superfluous noise of the outside world, but also the Third Attempt sound. “Just thinking of how others perceive what you are doing,” he explains “I’m limiting myself subconsciously” and that’s something he “never” wants to do again…  “never again” he stresses. “Rebelling against himself,” and against the primal urges of the dance floor, Torje has succeeded in making an album that has matured his sound as an artist and is unique in the contemporary landscape for its versatility. Torje hasn’t succeeded in completely severing all ties with the dance floor as measured rhythm sections play to corporeal delights and retain that elusive mystique behind the Third Attempt sound. 

It’s a sound he is “definitely going to keep pursuing” from his closet studio, and he says he already has the bulk of a new EP ready. Being one of the many people on furlough in Norway, Torje has remained busy, making music. “I was in denial… so I just  ended up creating a lot of music in a short amount of time.” It’s given him the time to “develop something that’s been there for a long time” and while he’s still coming to terms with the “strange times” we find ourselves in, he is positive and upbeat about the possibilities that lay just beyond the horizon. “Maybe it’s good for humans,” he considers. “People are more open, and maybe people’s attention span is getting longer,” setting the scene for an album like World is too loud to exist.

Torje hopes the album will offer the listener the same kind of escape that it gave its artist last year, because sometimes the world gets awfully loud.

Oh Snap! it’s Antony Mburu

Oh Snap it’s Antony Mburu. DJ, vinyl enthusiast and club socialite talks about this now iconic picture from our photo album and more in a Q&A.

Meet Antony Mburu. His figure looms large over Oslo’s clubbing community, both on the dance floor and in the booth. Formidable both in stature and heart, he can always be found with a bounce in his step and grin on his face. 

Before he was a DJ he was a music- and club enthusiast, an untamed spirit with the ability to infect all those around him. Today he channels that spirit into his sets, often playing at Jaeger and regularly with kindred spirit Rolf Riddervold, never losing that enthusiasm he displays in this picture, taken in 2016, during our annual romjulsfestivalen. 

It was a night to remember. Not a creature was stirring, except on the dance floor. The Boogienetter DJs were out in full force with Daniel Gude leading the likes of Fredfades, Rude Lead and Hele Fitta through boogie- and disco classics and rarities. While the DJs brought the tunes, Antony brought the vibe and the picture seals in time an enthusiasm that’s rarely been captured on film like this. 

It’s become our go-to picture when we want to reflect on a sense of joy and excitement at Jaeger, and today it’s cemented in our photo album as one of those classic pictures. A lot has changed since 2016, but the feeling is still there and Antony Mburu is a big part of that today at Jaeger.

#Antony plays alongside Rold Riddervold tonight at Jaeger. 

Hey Antony Mburu; DJ, music lover, vinyl enthusiast… club socialite. Would that be an accurate introduction?

Absolutely!!

I know you have had mixed feelings about us using the picture in the past, but what’s your relationship to it today and what do you remember of the events surrounding it?

Hahaha i was just really surprised that this picture surfaced after such a long time. The same night I took off my shirt and danced shirtless in front of the dj. I think I got a picture of the situation on my phone somewhere. I was really buzzed that night so the rest is a kind of a blurr

It’s our go-to picture when I want to convey a sense of joy and happiness via Jaeger’s social media. You look so happy there. Was it completely spur of the moment, or was it something specific that happened to be caught on camera?

That night I met up with my friends from high school. I really wanted us all to go to Jaeger together so I convinced them to join me. My friend Caroline is the girl under my arm to the right. She was really excited that night as well even though it doesn’t look like it. This is just me being captured in a moment being happy with the music and the company of my friends. 

That picture was from 2016…What have you been up to since?

Not much! Just working, travelling and listening to music.

Had you been DJing at that time already?

I think I started to DJ that same year.

How did you start DJing and was there anything, besides the music, that particularly inspired you into that direction? 

Me and my friend Rolf Olav discovered his older sister’s DJ booth in the basement at his fathers place. We borrowed her USB with a lot of unknown music we had never heard of. We just started to play around with the music at pre parties and it evolved from there.. We didn’t have so much knowledge about the artists and the equipment but we played around and it was so much fun. I really like to dance so my main objective is to play music that makes you move your feet as much as I do. 

What kind of music were you into back then?

A lot of EDM. Avicii, Ingrosso, Laidback luke, goldroom, uffie, bob sinclair,deadmau5, røyksopp, and the list goes on

How have your tastes evolved?  

Oh, it has really evolved! Now I’m experimenting with whatever I can get my hands on. As long as it sounds good to my ears I’m all for it. So I listen to a lot of mixes that I find on soundcloud and mixcloud. And I also started playing vinyl so I’ve had help from people like Rolf Olav, Øyvind Morken and Filter boss Roland Lifjell. They’ve really opened my ears for music from different labels I have never ever heard off. 

I’ve heard everything from afro-beat to peak-time high energy House coming from your sets. How would you describe the music you play out?  

It’s a mix of everything. But I like music with energy and the idea of blending different styles together and not sticking with one direction from the start. But it all comes down to the reaction from the crowd. If they dance or not. 

How and when did you start playing with Rolf Riddervold? 

Me and Rolf have known each other since high school and we have always shared music with each other. We became interested in electronic music (2012) at the same time and when we got a hold of some CDJs and a lot of music, started learning and just really went in for it. That was around 2016.

What direction does he usually take you in when you guys start playing together? 

Rolf Olav has a much more creative side when he mixes. His taste is broad so when we play together it’s more experimental and fun then playing alone. We challenge each other by having different styles so that makes it more challenging matching it all together, but that is kind of the fun part of it all.  We never know where we’re gonna end up, but we always end up having a great time!

I keep either seeing you behind the decks or on the dance floor. What side of the DJ booth do you prefer today?

Definitely behind the DJ booth. It gives me immense joy sharing music with the crowd and that’s something that I don’t get tired of. 

BigUP! interview Boj Lucki

Jaeger’s Drum n Bass and Jungle residents, BigUp! talk to Boj Lucki ahead of his appearance for Oslo World next week.

If there was ever an electronic music that was imbued with the rebellious spirit, it would be Drum n Bass. It instills the kind of fanaticism of cult legends, with a legion of dedicated followers that very rarely veer from its path. Today, it’s a culture all on its own, separate from any other dance music culture, a bonafide subculture within a counter culture like club music.

It’s a lifestyle, not just a music, and for the past few years BigUP! has been Jaeger and Oslo’s tenuous connection to that lifestyle. The Oslo-based DJ representatives are the first and last name in all things drum n bass and jungle in the city, and when Oslo World came round with a concept proliferating the rebels in music, we couldn’t think of anyone better illustrate that point for the Wednesday part of the festival.  

Drunkfunk, Fjell, Tech and Simon Peter represent the BigUP! crew for the event and to mark occasion they activated their global network, to bring their Swedish counterpart, BOJ Lucki to Oslo and to Jaeger for the night. 

The Stockholm-based DJ and producer has been a staunch representative for the drum n bass genres in Sweden, raising the banner for this style of music in his efforts as part of the MIR crew. His a well-travelled DJ, playing all over the world, and a regular guest on popular radio channels like Kiss 100 and BBC 1Xtra. He’s established a label called Bukva Sound to continue to promote the drum n bass and jungle in Sweden and today he shares a kindred spirit with BigUP as one of a select handful proliferating the genre in Scandinavia. 

In the tradition of their events, BigUP! sent some questions to their visiting DJ, and for the first time we have the opportunity to publish it via our blog. 

Who is Boj Lucki?

Name: Boj Lucki

Promolink(URL)https://soundcloud.com/bojlucki

Active since: 2001

Connected labels / concepts: Bukva Sound, Mir Crew, Klubb Rekyl, Special Order

https://bukvasound.bandcamp.com/

When was the first time you heard Jungle / DnB 

At home as my brother listened to Jungle and Breakbeat from mid 90s. The first tracks I really liked: Urban Shakedown feat. DBO General – Some Justice (Arsonist Dub Mix) and DJ Zinc – The Source & Super Sharp Shooter.

 What makes Jungle / DnB special for you

The energy, the bass, that it still feels futuristic, that it fits so many music styles in one.

 What made you start DJing ?

To convey a feeling on the dancefloor, spread all amazing music that is out there and make people happy:) I was inspired by my older brother who learned to DJ and had gear in our home.

Favorite producers

Breakage, Sully, Response, Digital, Kid Drama, Coco Bryce

Favorite labels

Western Lore, Future Retro, Function and Metalheadz

Vinyl or Digital 

Both

Do you play any other genres?

Yes, some Breakbeat, UK Garage, Dancehall…

Other messages for Bigup’s followersX

Great to visit Bigup & Oslo for the first time😲! 

Find out more:

BOJ LUCKI/ MIR CREW/ REKYL/ SPECIAL ORDER/ BUKVA SOUND

www.mir-crew.com

www.facebook.com/klubbrekyl 

www.facebook.com/specialordersthlm 

www.soundcloud.com/bojlucki 

www.soundcloud.com/bukvasound

 

Driving with Tarjei Nygård

We caught up with Tarjei Nygård to talk about Drive, his latest collaboration with Egyptian Lover and more.

*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.