JM#187 – Digitizer (live)

Electro. It’s a genre that has been resolute and unflinching in its purpose and design. It’s changed little from its origins when Kraftwerk laid down the foundations for what would fork off into Techno and Hip Hop in future iterations. At its core it’s machine music with Sci-Fi connotations and soulful grooves. 

It has inspired dedicated scenes from Detroit to London which exist around the genre, and in Oslo it’s garnered a devoted fan-base like none other, with many individuals making and playing this style of music, even if in solitary contexts. Digitizer is one of these individuals.

The Electro artist has been on the periphery of Oslo’s DIY scene since the early 2000’s. At first assuming the name Polymorph, he eventually adopted the moniker Digitizer. Jis output as recording artist has been reserved, but as a live performer he’s been a presence all over Oslo’s clubbing scene. He can often be found playing at concepts like Robomatic’s Elektro Romantikk, and it was that concept and the DJ that facilitated Digitizer’s live performance for this edition of the jaeger mix. 

Armed with little more than three machines – modern versions of classic synths and drum machines – Digitizer performed from our sauna. Featuring some tracks from his latest release, “Future Technologies” alongside mostly unreleased material, Digitizer programmed a set that pays homage to the origins for Electro. 

Hints of Drexciya and Kraftwerk echo through Digitizer’s sound, but it’s a sound based very much on the power of song rather than tracks. Sparkling melodies flicker between skipping beats and snarling motifs from a 303 acid machine. It’s Electro in its purest form. 


Tell me about your relationship with Electro. How did you arrive at the genre and what was it about the style of music that appealed to you?

My relationship with Electro started as a natural development after listening to a lot of music within Synth, Techno and Electronica. What I like about Electro is, among other things, that the sound has a lot of analog synth and drum machine in it. Especially the Roland TR-808 which is an iconic drum machine from 1980. What also appeals to me is the slightly nerdy Sci-fi/Future concept which is often linked to Electro.

I hear hints of Drexciya in your live show, but besides them, who were some of your early influences? 

It is absolutely true that Drexciya is a great source of inspiration for my music, together with Kraftwerk who are truly considered the pioneers of all electronic music and especially the Electro genre. 

At what point did you start making music and what were the machines that started it all for you?

I started making music in the early 90’s when I got my first Synth a Korg Poly 61. It was an older analog synth from the early 80’s which I combined with a Boss DR-220 drum machine. After that, the collection of synths and drum machines has grown quite a bit. Today I have a small bedroom studio that consists of various analog synths, drum machines and sequencers. I am fascinated by hardware that gives the opportunity to turn knobs and levers, as opposed to sitting with a mouse and typing on a screen. Much of the Electro genre leans towards older analogue synths and drum machines where the Roland TR-808 is an important element compared to what the Roland TR-909 is for the Techno genre.

Your live set-up was nice and compact, with a few key pieces like the 303 and the 101 central to your work. Where do you start your tracks when you start composing?

I always start by programming the rhythms and bass lines which are an important element in Electro. It is important that the bass and drums work well together as it is the foundation of the song. When it’s in place, chords and melodies have to be put in place. Finally, the whole thing is seasoned with misc. analogue SFX and topped with some robot vocoder vocals.

You’ve had another alias Polymorph, and now there’s Digitizer. Can you tell me a bit about the evolution of your work and the differences between these two monikers?

My Polymorph alias was more inspired by the Electro Clash genre that was popular in the late nineties. I had a song with Polymorph that I called Digitizer, but eventually found out that this song name was to become the new name of my Electro concept.

Your recorded output has been quite reserved, but you’ve been quite busy on the live front especially recently. What is it about the live format that you prefer?

I like the concept of playing my songs live in front of an audience because of the atmosphere and feedback I get during the live set. It’s really inspiring to see people engage with my music and hopefully like what they hear. I would have liked to have more releases, but it is a bit difficult as the genre is quite narrow in Norway. But there are definitely some favorite Electro labels that I hope I can have a release on in the future.

But the tracks you play, especially for the Jaeger mix, sound like finished songs. How do you approach the music you play out live, are they fully formed ideas by the time they reach the live show?

Yes, that’s right. Most of the songs in the live set are loops from finished songs that I live mix in the Akai MPC and add elements from the Roland SH-01A and TD-303.

Conversely, when are they good enough to be released on record like this last one?

Most of the songs have actually already been released digitally on various labels, but the plan is to release some of the old songs on vinyl as well.

Tell us more about this latest release, Future Technologies. What went into that one and how did it end up being released?

Future Technologies is my first vinyl release on a label from Leipzig in Germany. They contacted me and asked if I was interested in a vinyl release on their label, which of course I was. Future Technologies came about because I wanted to make an EP where the theme was what the rapid technological development means for us in both a positive and negative direction.

It’s been at least ten years since the last release (or at least according to discogs). Why the hiatus, and why did it feel right to bring out a new record at this time?

The reason for that is that I have included a number of songs on various Electro compilations during the 10 years, including on the “Time Capsule 808 Box” compilation series of Alek Stark who runs the label “Fundamental Records”. There have also been 2 digital EPs during those years on various companies. But I should clearly have had a higher release frequency. It’s something I’m currently working on.

I recognised a few of the songs in the live show too. Where did they start life and how do you adapt them between the live show and the record?

I play through a number of older and new songs in the live set. They can be a bit difficult to recognize since I mix in some new elements in the live mix. I start by re-programming the songs in the Akai MPC and adding new elements from the Roland SH-01A and TD-303. I try to keep the live set as simple as possible to have the best possible control over the live performance.

And were there any pieces from this live set that might find its way to a record in the near future? 

I really hope so. It would have been fun, releasing both new and older songs on vinyl.

What else is on the horizon for Digitizer?

I’m working on finalizing new songs for a possible future release and, of course, hope for more opportunities to play live.