JM#193 – Mojo (live)

Mojo (aka Henrik Mojord Jahnsen) is one of those rarefied characters in Oslo’s clubbing community. Whether he’s on the dance floor, in a DJ booth, on the live stage, or at a lighting console you’ve undoubtedly been in his presence if you’ve been clubbing in Oslo. 

At the heart of his pursuits is a passion for electronic club music, especially Techno and Electro that is unlike you’ve ever experienced. From the records he buys, the music he makes, the synthesisers and drum machines he’s amassed, to his presence on the scene, few are as dedicated to this music as Mojo. 

Although an accomplished DJ, it’s in the context of a live show where his prowess as an artist comes to the fore. A disciple of the modular synthesiser, built on a long-standing tradition of Roland’s X0X machines, Mojo’s live sets are an immersive experience between  primordial rhythms and experimental electronics. 

He arrived at the Jaeger Mix for a cold night in February with this live set. From a couple of cases with cables charting an intricate course through machines, he conjured some truly enigmatic sounds, spurring lifeless electronics into motion. At the heart of his work there’s the familiar pulse of Techno, swathed in deep and entrancing sonic landscapes. From improvisation, tracks spring to life through Mojo’s almost subconscious ability to channel these elements to something for the dance floor. 

While we’ve had the pleasure of Mojo’s acquaintance all these years, we know very little of his extensive musical background, something which he puts right with this extensive interview following his Jaeger Mix. 

Can you give us a quick introduction to who you are and a brief glimpse into your musical history?

Hello, yes and thank you for the invite. I started with music/sound around 2000. Or at least this is when I “professionally” started. It was in the last years of high school(arts and craft) and I got a part time job at the newly opened Filter Musikk here in Oslo. There and also at school, I met some awesome people that introduced me to different styles of electronic music. I really have to shout out to Paal(dj lost) for including and introducing me to so much from the start. From drone/noise stuff to techno and beyond. There I also could try out both new and used equipment. All the Roland classics, arp, korg.

Then I started with field recording and sound collecting from synths and other equipment on minidisc. That developed into a live improvised performance act using samplers and fx pedals. I also took a summer course at Notam that really got me thinking about what sound is and can be. How it works in a room.

During the same time period a classmate said that I had to meet this guy Thomas(twomas) that was really into techno and had just gotten a radio show on a local frequency here in Oslo; ”electroniche” was the show’s name. He also started Reverberate, which was a collective of djs doing parties both under- and overground. And we did bookings of artists that we liked at the time;I joined  as a technician and dj. 

Then in 2003 I had a year in Bergen studying music production. Where I got more insight of recording and mixing part of it.

Later when I came back to Oslo, Simen (aka dj nemis – also part of Reverberate crew) and I created solemen, a live techno/house «duo/band». We had a few good gigs including warming up for Redshape, Shawn Rudiman, Jeff Mills.

In 2008-13 I was studying art.  I mainly worked with painting and installation. But sound/music clubbing was either part of it physically or purely inspirational. I did some random dj and live gigs in this period but I was focusing on painting and that side of art. For me it goes side by side or hand in hand. It is Art. I also developed more ways and approaches to start a “piece of work” in that period. 

Then I moved to Berlin some years to work with painting and art. But the sound and energy of clubbing caught me up again.   

You seem to have this live thing down to a science. When did you start working on the foundations of what would become your live set as we hear it today?

Yes, science and research are good words in terms of how I work. I often or mostly improvise and record it. Then I listen back to it and have like an analytical sensibility about it. Short time archaeology in my own history/material.   

I Started to work with this when you asked me if I wanted to play. So a month or so. Usually I use a lot of time patching, trying different modules out etc. Lots of jamming and improvisation. Just to get a “feeling” of where I wanna go. I have to say one week before i got that starting point. 

What is the foundation of the set, both in terms of equipment and melodic/rhythmic devices?

Modular is the foundation of all the melodic and then I use a Digitakt for the rhythmical parts.

The modular is obviously a huge part of it. When did that bug first bite and what does it open up for you in terms of creating music live which you couldn’t do before?

It’s the open platform/form factor of it that I like about the modular. That it can have its own life so to say. From total random chaos to total control by me. Machine man/Man machine. The dynamic there that is what gives and takes, inspires me a lot.  

Can you give us a quick rundown of some of the seminal pieces in the set?

It is one improvised piece, so kind of difficult to explain in a few words. It is some repetition in noise and melodies that are reappearing. 

You mostly play live now, but you’re no stranger to DJing either. What do you prefer and what is it about playing live right now that feels right to you?

It is again a symbiosis. I’m very eclectic both as a DJ or  in the live sets. To have two records that I  know well and take it from there. Take a fist random of records from what I have and work with it or “it has to work”. I love limitations. 

Who are some of your influences when it comes to playing live?

That is a tuff one. Where to start… Live impro. Jazz.  Let me do it in a chronological way, locals first Trulz&Robin, tettåke/skiftendesydekke, Bjørn Torske, Mrd. Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, Anthony Child, todd sines, s-max, so many… 

I know you do some ambient sets too, but I sense that Techno is the realm in which you thrive. What is it about the genre that speaks to you personally?

I think it is the basicness or kind of bare rawness that techno gives.

Do you remember the first time you heard a Techno track; what was the track or album and what did it solidify for you?

That must have been on the radio probably. I don’t remember. But in the mid 90´s I got a record player and vinyl compilation called Trance Atlantic 2 from my brother(Thanks). The songs “Help Me” by Green Velvet and or Kosmic Messenger`s “Concrete” really fascinated me. And the soundscapes of Leftfield on Leftism. Kraftwerk of course. 

But when I heard like Robert Hood and Jeff Mills for the first time it kind of settled it. Couldn’t get enough of it. This kind of less is more, hard but with soul. That hit me really in the stomach and the hair on the back. And still is.

When did you first realise this is something you’d like to do and that it was something that you could do?

That must have been when I met Jan Skomakerstuen and he asked me to join together with Inderstelia and kid to do a live performance in an art installation at Kunsternes Hus(Artists House) back in 2001/2. That was at least the initial kick about doing things live and how to do it.

I assume like many of us there was a first synth and/or drum machine. What were those for you and how did they influence the sounds you’re making today?

Boss Sp 202 sampler and the Roland MC 303 groove box were the first machines that I got. That must have been around 97-98. The MC 303 was notoriously difficult to program. I never got really under the hood of it.

But it had the basic X0X way to program it, which helped when I later either borrowed or got the money to purchase the classics e.g. 909, 606, 707. It had the sounds that I knew from records and tunes from the radio/tv at the time. The SP 303 I still use today from time to time for its simple and dirty sound.

For the people reading this, before they listen to your mix, how would you describe that sound?

Deep, melodic sound…

How do you see this sound and your live set evolving in the future and where will people be able to catch you in the foreseeable future?

Refine and refine again. Strip it more down. Work with transitions of different parts of the set. As we speak I’m working with tunes for Bandcamp and other digital platforms. Merch is on the way as well. And hopefully some vinyl soon.