I Wanna Party with Henriku

We caught up with Henriky via Berlin to talk about his music, Quirk, the Gode Selskab, his formative years, queer clubbing in Berlin and Bikini Wax ahead of his stint at Jaeger for Lokomotiv

From the suburbs of Oslo, via the UK ato eventually Berlin; and through Garage and House to minimal, Henriku’s path to the wax has stopped on many different elements of club music to get to his debut record Rush/Fantasy. While he never set foot in a club before leaving Norway, and with little input from anything he was hearing at home, Henriku has waded through a curious path in music. His associations with Quirk and Det Gode Selskab run deep, as the building blocks on  which his own approach to the minimal landscape has taken foothold. 

It was at one of Det Gode Seslkab’s boat parties where the seed of ambition was planted towards a career as a producer. After a stint at university where he studied the production art, he found his calling in the sonic landscape of those peers before embarking on the next chapter of his career at Quirk where he found a kindred spirit in the label’s founder Alexander Skancke. After a few collaborative releases via that label, Henrikuu released his first solo record “Rush Fantasy” via Det Gode Selskab records in what could only be described as fate.  

Henriku’s tracks  like “I wanna party” are club tracks with a purpose and a sense of frivolous fun that engages as much as it propels. There’s a sense of infectious enjoyment that courses from that track all the way through to a track like “Pillow Talk”, taken from “Rush Fantasy”. 

A DJ that operates in the extended minimal landscape, Henriku is a regular fixture in Berlin’s booths like Hoppetosse as well as some of Oslo’s booths like Jaeger.  (He even played at the very first Helt Texas.) He’s been coming back more often recently as his star continues to rise back home in league with his efforts in Berlin. He maintains a very close relationship with the Quirk family and together they’ve started to carve out a sonic identity based on the minimal sonic landscape and imbued by a queer vision of a minimal scene. 

We caught up with Henriku via phone call just as he was about to head out for a shift at the iconic Bikini Wax to talk about his music history, Djing and the queer scene in Berlin, as he prepares to return to Jaeger for Lokomotiv’s Romjulsfestivalen takeover. 

What have you been up to this weekend?

This weekend I played Iat Sisyphos, playing back to back with Alexander Skancke, my good and beloved friend. We played from 05:00 – 09:00 on Sunday morning. It was lots of fun. 

Are you playing every week in Berlin at the moment?

Unfortunately, no. I only started playing club gigs about a year and a half ago, with the first Quirk night. It still goes in waves for me. Some months I have plenty, some are a bit slower. November has been quite well. The week before we had a Quirk night at Hoppetosse. 

What is the atmosphere in Berlin like at the moment for DJs? I can imagine there are quite a few DJs out there at the moment. 

For the time being it’s quite alright. Personally, I think it’s a matter of point of view. A lot of people view the amount of DJs as competition, but I truly believe there is space for everyone to be creative and have success. It doesn’t have to come on other people’s terms. Yes, there are a lot of people, but there are also a lot of opportunities. That’s why the city attracts so many DJs. 

Are there new communities cropping up as well, or is it pretty much each man/woman for him/herself?

I think it’s both. I’ve found my community in Quirk. It makes the process of creating so much more fun, when you are building each other up, rather than stepping over each other. 

I always thought Quirk was Alexander Skancke’s label. Is the community, artists releasing on the label, or is it like a collective?

For the time being we are a total of five people that have released on the label, but mostly it’s just close friends at this point. It’s more like our friend circle. It’s artists who have released on the label, but it’s also broader, like the regular faces we see at our gigs, and good friends. We  are friends who like a similar kind of music and a core vision. 

From what I heard, it does seem like the label has a sound and it’s very much emphasised by the different releases and artists. How did you find your voice within the label?

Absolutely. Alex and I didn’t meet until 2019, and before we met we actually had a similar background in terms of the minimal sound, but from different points. Alex has been in the game a lot longer than me. He went through his minimal phase, went to sunwaves and then moved to Berlin, while tapping into those early nineties influences. And I have walked a similar path. I was obsessed with UK garage – that was my entry point – from UK garage I moved into House and then I moved to Berlin where I really got hooked on minimal. I went to Sunwaves where I got more hooked. From there I opened my horizons back to the roots of House and Garage and started exploring more Techno sounds. The red thread of minimal remains. That’s what makes the Quirk sound cohesive, if you will. Most of the people that are involved in Quirk at the moment, share these points of reference. 

It’s interesting that you mention UK garage as your entry into club music.  It’s not something you would associate with Norway at all. What led to that introduction?

I had a couple of friends from my gymnasium who did a year abroad in York, England. I visited and that’s where I had my first club experience. It was a funny mixture of commercial hits and UK Garage. The UK Garage and House Garage sound resonated with me and I needed to find more of it and find out what this was. 

Was this also the start of DJing and making electronic music for you?

I went back to the UK after this and to the Leeds festival where they had these camps that would play Garage and Bassline. And after I got home from this festival, I realised I need to be more in touch with this rather than just listening to it. I really wanted to start producing, but I was talking myself down saying; “no I don’t have any musical background, it’s way too late for me.” I tried DJing instead, and I bought my first DJ controller.  

I enjoyed it, but I realised it wasn’t enough. I looked into software for producing music, and thought I might as well try. I taught myself the basics through You Tube tutorials. By the end of that year, I managed to put together some tracks, and they were something. (laughs)

It was also at this point that I just finished gymnasium, wondering what I would do with my life and it was actually my dad that came across a university in Berlin that had a music production course. 

I’ve read an interview with you, where you mentioned you never actually went clubbing Norway. Is that correct; did you have no connection to the scene here before you left for Berlin?

Yes, that’s completely right. I had one friend who really enjoyed it. She had great taste in music and we reconnected when I was around 18 years old. She had already gone to a few raves and parties and showed me a lot of really cool stuff. At this time most places had an age limit of 21 so it was really hard. Before I reconnected with her nobody had wanted to go out with me. Luckily I linked up with her and the last party I had gone to was Det Gode Selskab boat party. I remember leaving that party, thinking there’s something really special here and it would be so cool to do something like this someday. This sparked something in me that really sent me on a mission to Berlin.  

I guess the Garage influences fell away when you moved to Berlin?

That is exactly what happened. Coming to Berlin and hearing Techno for the first time at Berghain and Griessmühle … The Techno scene was very different. Garage influences weren’t easy to find.

I wanted to ask you about something you said in another interview. You felt that there was a lack of queer representation in your scene in Berlin. Even in Berlin?

Yes, even in Berlin. There is a gap in the market. I am very curious about starting something up with some friends. Maybe if I find the time and energy. For the time being, it’s very locked in with contemporary Techno. Hardgroove is very big and so are those fast-paced sounds. There are some slow-paced sounds based around House music, because there is always the panorama bar to the Berghain. In terms of the minimal sound you’ll find at places like Hoppetosse, there’s not much going on for the queer folks. 

So it’s dominated by a straight audience, or the straight industry side of things?

It’s a combination of the two. There are definitely queer people that enjoy the music, but perhaps they’re not always the most inviting places for queer people. It’s not like there is any alienation, because there are still queer people showing up. In Berlin it’s very extreme in terms of the safe spaces these queer parties provide. Living in Berlin and experiencing that every weekend you get a bit spoiled. I  just think there should be a safe space for queer people to enjoy minimal music as well. I also think there is something to the fact that queer people are seeking High-Energy music. 

And you never got sucked into the hard and fast Techno that places like Berghain and Griesssmühle were doing?

I actually enjoy it on occasion. This summer I went  to a lot queer parties and spent some time with friends in Berghain as well. I think it’s fun as long as it’s groovy. I probably won’t produce it myself, but in terms of having a fun time, I can absolutely enjoy it. I need some ups and downs in the energy. What I miss in that scene is a story-line. 

When it came to the music you are producing today and in the context of Berlin, what was it that pushed you in that direction?

It was during my time at university. I made two really close friends in Sammy Lewis and the other one was Trent Voyage (who has also been releasing on Quirk.) As we were getting to know each other we saw we had a similar vision, and that was very influential on all of us. We went out and got a lot of input together; a lot from Griesmühle and Hoppetosse was a second home. 

It was really born from the club; what you were hearing in the club was directly influencing what you would do in the studio?

Absolutely. I see myself as a club kid, figuratively and then sometimes literally as well. There are influences from other kinds of music, but club music is what I do. 

It’s interesting that you mention club kids, because when I listen to your music, and the stuff you made with Alexander, you get the sense of having a good time. “I want to party” is probably the most on the nose example of that. 

Exactly and that is also one of the core values of Quirk; we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We just want to make fun, engaging music. Bringing these vocals in like that song, is part of it.

I’ve found there are often vocals in your music and adds to that sense of engagement. What do you look for in vocals when you add them to your music?

A lot of the vocals are my own recorded music. It brings a lot of freedom, in terms of the vibe or what I want to say, literally. I am also a huge fan of samples, when it comes to bringing in a vocal sample, it’s random. My sample library is big, but usually it’s about playing around and finding something that suits the sonic landscape of the track. I feel like the meaning almost always follows the act, and drives the direction of the track. 

When you  are using your own vocals is there usually a theme to the lyrics or is it all in the spur of the moment?

It’s often a combination. If I have a loop that I’m working on I might start writing things down on a piece of paper. I don’t have a strict formula. The ”I want to party” track for instance was on the spur of the moment. It started as a joke. Alex gave me the microphone and we were both hungover and the energy was a bit low. Alex was rolling his eyes, but also laughing. So I made a build out of it and played it back to Alex. 

Yes, you do convey that sense of having a good time, not just with that song but others too. We talked mostly about working with Alex at this point, but this year you brought out your first record of original material for Det Gode Selskab too. 

Yes, this was the first track I released on my own. I already had a few tracks on the digital compilation with Det Gode Selskab, but for the time being I only have one solo record out.  It came out on the 17th of May by accident. 

Did working with Alexander influence anything in your own music?

Yes, absolutely. It’s hard to say exactly what, but this aspect of jamming around, playing things on a keyboard, and finding a groove rather than programming things. I love to sit with a mouse and click things in, it’s a super fun process and I will continue to do it, but I will also incorporate some live jamming. It adds a little bit of soul. 

Alexander also introduced you to Bikini Wax, I believe. And now you work there?

Yes. I’m on my way there in an hour actually. It’s such a cosy atmosphere which I really enjoy. I was a long time customer for a long time and to be surrounded by records all day, and getting to learn new stuff about the history is such a privilege. 

What kind of influence has that had on your DJing?

It definitely has affected  the way that I look for new music. I’m listening to new music all day, so I’m trying to think long term in terms of which records I buy and also how they fit in my collection. 

Are you a little more hesitant because of the prices of records these days?

Of course. It’s not only that though it ‘s also about space. There are always records on the floor these days.