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?
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.