Introducing Frantzvaag

Considering the average age of this newest generation of producer/DJ, it’s very likely that any newcomer to this music would most likely have been raised by the generation that were there at the gestation of the House and Techno music; around the same age their offspring are now. Any 19 – 25 year old would most likely have parents that were around that age when what we have come to understand as electronic dance music (not as a genre, but what it literally stands for) was in its most exciting infancy. It’s a sobering thought; one that especially hits home when I sit down with 22-year-old Mats Ottem Frantzvaag who says his appreciation for House was handed down to him by his dad. “He had all these compilation CD’s” Mats tells me, and although his father, who has always been “pretty interested in music” generally might not have been at the very forefront of the House movement, he most certainly was of a generation that were some of the first people that would have come across this style of music. Although an interesting point, and one that will surely keep a few music’s most free-thinkers occupied in the years to come, it probably speaks more of Mats’ universally open perspective of music than it does of socio-cultural anthropology. Mats is a producer and DJ about to release his debut EP as Frantzvaag for Fuck Reality, a Smallville sub-label, and when we heard that he’d be having the release party at Jæger we dropped by to be formally introduced to this new talent.

Growing up in Sandvika, the Oslo-born Mats “spent way too much time searching through music blogs” as a youth while partaking in “everything from French House to Lounge music” through his father’s music collection. But like many of the generation that grew up with the internet Mats wouldn’t be content with merely one genre of music and would also savour ”early New York nineties Hip Hop, like Pete Rock and Large professor”, from which an interest in sampled music blossomed too. When he got his first sampler for a birthday at the age of fourteen/fifteen, a seed was planted. “Back then I only made Hip Hop beats and this bad kind of electro stuff.” It was from Hip Hop however that Mats started digging deeper into the music, and through the work of the likes of Pete Rock, he “got more interested in the samples” behind the music, and soon started venturing further into Jazz and Soul from this Hip Hop catalyst. Picking through samples and getting to grips with sampling techniques established in Mats a desire to delve deeper into the music, its techniques and its history during his adolescent years. At the same time an aspiration of just “getting away and experiencing something else” encouraged a change of scenery and pace and Mats made the move to London to enrol at the Point Blank music school. “It’s what I always wanted to do”, says Mats about his decisions to study production and it was during this time in the company of kindred spirits that he really got a chance to develop his kills as a producer and DJ. “All these guys I went to school with had this big collective and also had a studio and DJ setup and we all used to hang out there before going out.“ These experiences and the education applied Mats with the skills that his latent talent required to develop his sound and when London’s expenses became unjustifiable, he made the move back to Oslo with experience, more influences, and hefty collection of demos. One such demo found its way to Julius Steinhoff and when the Smallville boss heard it, Mats soon got a reply asking for more. That track was Knitring and today it introduces Frantzvaag’s debut EP on Smallville’s Fuck Reality imprint. “I was not like: ‘I’m gonna make an EP’, it’s more like tracks I made over the past year. I made two of them when I still lived in London and the other two when I came back home.” For Frantzvaag’s debut Mats picked the tracks that were “pretty similar” emphasising a “New York Deep House” sound that he’d been cultivating in his productions for the last year. The EP plays in the humid textures of New York’s more organic musical aesthetic as the percussive elements of the music combine with sauntering chords being pushed forward at a reserved pace. For a moment you can hear Mats’ Hip-Hop roots and sampling inclinations come to the fore, but its never obvious and the samples combine in a very natural way, making it often hard to determine their existence. There’s a Dilla-like perfection in the way Frantzvaag’s various elements all manage to find their position in the space they are allocated and as a result the music breathes but without the assertiveness of a hip-hop beat, and so it imparts mood rather than function.

Influences from New York, experiences from London, and a youth spent consuming various movements in House through his father conspires in Mats’ music as something worldly, a universal quality that undoubtedly caught the ear of Julius Steinhoff too. He is however very “excited” to be back in Oslo and to be part of the effervescent scene we’re experiencing here despite all odds. Even though he might ”find lots of the new stuff happening in London very exciting – especially things popping of around the Peckham area, like rhythm section, rye wax etc and the artists affiliated with this” – he still feels it might be heading towards a “kind of a downward spiral” (especially in lieu of Fabric’s almost immanent demise) and prefers being back home where he finds the scene “really inspiring”.

Mats enjoys being in Oslo with the young DJ getting opportunities for “playing a bit more” and when he is not studying “innovation, and creative business development at Oslo school of management” (a degree he hopes will also further his musical career) he is immersed in all aspects of music. You will often find him digging for new records to sample at Baklengs, where he occasionally assists proprietor Hacir, if he’s not working at his part time job at Hi-Fi klubben. He says he has “found a lot to sample, just sitting around listening to records” with Hacir and after we’re done with our interview he intends to go straight there to help Hacir unpack some new arrivals. Some of these records he might even take with him when he plays out at places like Skaugum with sets that can go from “Techno that’s not just Techno” to Funk to House. “I don‘t really have a big plan when I’m playing” says Mats, preferring to stay in the moment with the music and the people on the floor. The next time I will most likely see Mats will be in the booth at Jæger for the release of his EP and I sense a definite hint of excitement in his voice about the upcoming gig. “It’s going to be super fun and a big dream come true.”

Mats is only Twenty two and we laugh at the fact that he would be technically under the age limit for a Friday night. Our conversation is brief as it is with any artist at the forefront of his career, but its given us the introduction to the artist we’ve needed. Now, all that’s left to do is sit back and watch this new career unfold and the complexities of the artistic personality behind those influences, experiences and education develop further along his career.