JM#189 – Keecen

Keecen has been a name on our radar for some time. He’s been through Jaeger’s booth and as the official Oslo representative of Bergen-based label Mhost Likely, he’s been building bridges across the fjords. His own productions channel the sounds and moods of nineties House and repurposes the, in modern aesthetic were alongside contemporaries like BCR, he’s made impressive contributions to Norway’s House music scene.

It’s this sound he brings to his debut on the Jaeger mix. Keecen charts a journey through uncharted waters on this one, with music he’s never played out before including some unreleased pieces from his own catalogue. There’s a preview of a future release reinforcing that nineties House aesthetic that saunters along this mix  at a tempered tempo.

There’s nothing left to do, but jump into this mix while we find out a little more about this new artist and his music.

*The jaeger Mix returns next Wednesday.

Hey Keecen. I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure yet. Can you please introduce yourself to the people?

My name is Martin Solli. I’ve been based in Tromsø and recently moved to Oslo. I work under the name Keecen. I do A&R for Mhost Likely, specifically the Green sub-label. In addition to that I started my own label called Mellom, focusing primarily on Tromsø-based electronic artists.

Your name has been in the air for a bit, since we first heard your record Back in the Day via Mhost Likely. What were you doing before then?

Before then I was producing and DJing under the name LP Martin in Tromsø, doing a mix of hip hop and disco-house. I took a step back and started a new project focusing more on the deeper and artistic sides of music.

As one of the figureheads behind Mhost Likely, What do you do there and where has it taken you?

I joined Mhost in March 2022 as the A&R for the Green sublabel, focusing primarily on house/leftfield music. It has developed me as an artist but also as a person. Working with other artists and developing their projects gives me great joy, and it teaches me a lot about music.

Besides I love Bergen, it’s like Tromsø, just bigger and more productive, but at the same time It’s close knit. It seems like everybody knows each other. The people are great, and there’s hardly any rain any of the times I’ve been there!

So, the label is based in Bergen, but you’re in Oslo ?

Correct. I moved here in October, finally. I’ve been trying to get the move on for some years but Covid and life in general just didn’t make it happen. But now I’m finally here and it feels great.

What encouraged the move here and what has developed in terms of production and DJing for you since the move?

I lived in Tromsø for 29 years, and I found my productions and creativity becoming very stale from being in the same environment, so even before I moved to Oslo I made the conscious decision to use 2022 as a year for experimenting with my sounds.

I released everything from deep house and UK Garage to trip-hop, while at the same time changing the way I used samples. Instead of using samples as the main theme of a track, I’d rather use them to compliment a theme written by myself, to challenge myself and apply myself more as a musician into the music.

Using 2022 as the point of reference I’m going all out on a more clubby sound for 2023. Tracks that fit in my DJ sets. While experimenting with my sounds is very fun and artistic, and something I’ll always do and come back to, I found myself lacking the eagerness to play my own productions in my DJ sets. I am changing that for 2023 and onwards.

On to the Jaeger mix. Did you have any theme or plan in mind ahead of the mix?

My only plan was mostly playing tracks I’ve never played before. I wanted to test myself a bit playing tracks I wasn’t 100% familiar with, I like being a bit on edge. I never plan my sets, I usually have a mood/vibe I’m going for pre-gig, if it doesn’t work I’m always ready to switch it up.

The only thought I had regarding the mix was playing tracks that would fit my theme as a club DJ going forward. I wanted the mix to showcase what the “Keecen” project is all about going forward.

There’s a definite parallel there with your own music. What’s the consistent thread between the music you make and the music you play out in a mix like this?

Regardless of what genre; electronic music has to have a funky element’. For me it humanizes the music. It has to have a human touch.

Is there a particular track that was central to the theme of the mix?

My own track ‘Cold Cuts’ which is the last one on the tape. It’s a clear indicator of what my productions are projecting towards.

The mix, much like your music, is based on those fundamental building blocks of nineties House, updated for a modern audience. What is the appeal of those sounds for you personally?

Pure nostalgia I think. Even though I didn’t listen to house music in the 90s, being born in ‘93, I’ve always felt drawn towards the 90s era of anything really as I grew up. Music (hip hop especially), video games, aesthetics, synthesizers, etc.

Using the 90s as an inspiration fused with an updated modern production feels right for me. I don’t want anything to sound too clean, usually I spend a lot of time roughing up the sounds before I’m happy. I guess I’ve started making music I always wanted to listen to when I was a kid. Incorporating sounds with a strong influence to my adolescent years.

What’s the biggest difference between the original House music sounds and what’s happening now in terms of your own music and DJing in your opinion?

The tempo has gone up, for sure, upwards of 130 BPM. In addition to a more creative use of the classic drum machines. Also the productions are looping a bit less in my opinion. Back in the day you’d have restrictions regarding what you could do, now you can do anything with as much gear or plugins as you want. So I’ve made a conscious effort to restrict myself where I can when it comes to production and mixing.

Where do you see and where do you hope to take House music in your own work?

I’ve developed 2 sounds for Keecen. One is a deeper and dirtier sound, more artistic if you’d like. The other sound runs parallel and is a bit more playful and easy going, focused more on funky house sounds. I’ll be doing a bit of both.

Is there anything happening in the immediate future for Keecen you are eager to share with us?

I’ll be dropping a 2-tracker on my own label Mellom in the not too distant future. I’ve also been working on my next EP for Mhost Likely, a trancey house joint that I’m really looking forward to sharing with everyone. And later this year I’m doing a 3 track EP on the Valencia based label Miura Records, featuring Cold Cuts from this mixtape. I’ll be doing more gigs in Oslo going forward so maybe I’ll see you around!