It must take something special and unique for Bjørn Torske’s ears to perk up. The DJ and artist has cemented a legacy in House music in Norway, with a career spanning the great expanse of electronic club music as one of its most celebrated sons.
From the small university town of Tromsø he was one of the first wave of DJs bringing this music to fjordian shores, and one of the first artists to export it beyond the country’s borders. As he moved from Tromsø to Bergen, he not only established House music in the region, but also played a significant role in establishing an individual Norwegian identity in House music, often referred to as Space Disco.
With albums that rank in classic lore and DJ sets as intuitive as they are surprising, Bjørn Torske is nothing short of a legend in music. With credentials like these, when Bjørn Torske’s ears perk up so do ours, and when Ola Smith-Simonsen (Olanskii) proposed a Norske Byggeklosser event, Torske had a wildcard poised and ready.
Trym Søvdsnes was his choice, and together they represent the establishment and the future of a flourishing Bergen music scene for House music and Techno. They’ve have been regular acquaintances in the booth, most notably sharing the bill at this summer’s Sofa House events in Norway.
Søvdsnes is a vinyl enthusiast with an eclectic approach as mixes he’s shared online demonstrates, drifting between the more abstract corners of House and Techno, blurring the fringes of dance music and listening music. With a focus on mood and energy he brings a dynamism to the booth that harks back to the classic roots of club music, the very same roots Bjørn Torske helped seed in this arena. After playing together as DJs, Torske and Søvdsnes expanded their collaboration to the studio when they remixed a track for Diego Carpitella’s album “Tarantismo: Odyssey of an Italian Ritual.”
With their first joint visit to Jaeger looming this weekend we sent out some questions to the elder statesman of House music to ask more about Trym Søvdsnes, about how they found each other, and what this means for the scene in Bergen in this Q&A session.
How did you first hear of Trym and what was it about him that particularly drew you to his sets?
Well, he and a friend started playing regularly at Cafe Opera in Bergen, and I took notice of their mixing of styles – somewhat dirty, rough techno and house fused with breakbeats and percussion, sounding quite unlike a lot of the other dj’s playing around Bergen at that time. I mean, locally we have a growing interest in good club music, and quite a few talented people. But Trym had an attitude in the music that is kind of rare these days, where people tend to sort of “polish” their style into perfection, well I feel Trym was a bit opposite to that.
Why are you bringing him to Oslo for this particular night?
I’ve been thinking for a long time that we sometime ought to play together in Oslo, I know he’s played a few times at Hærverk with the guys from Oblivion Dip, and so when Ola told me about “Norske Byggeklosser” and the idea of promoting Norwegian artists, that was a perfect occasion to make this happen.
You’ve booked him, and played alongside him during one of the Sofa House events this summer. What does a Trym Søvdsnes set sound like to you?
Depending on the setting, of course, but slightly rough-edged, beautiful and often bound to surprise.
And how does it compare to what you’re playing at the moment?
It appears to me that we’re on the same wavelength according to mixing styles and creating a vibe that in some way could be reminiscent of the early styles of dj’ing – a “house (not house)”-approach to dance music.
I hear a lot of old-school acid and Techno in his recorded sets, something which corresponds with regional appeal at the moment. For somebody that was there when this music first came round, what are your feelings towards this music today?
For me the musical history and development has always been an expanding pallet as opposed to a linear string of events. It’s the sheer quality of sound and music that matters the most, there’s very little place for nostalgia in this for me. If it sounds good, I’ll play it, whether it be from 1990 or 2020.
From what I’ve gathered through snippets on social media and his mixes, is that Trym is a vinyl enthusiast and first and foremost, a DJ. What else can you tell us about his musical tastes and attitude to DJing?
He likes his vinyl, as I do, and he is an avid crate digger. He’s very good at finding stuff before anyone else, and if there’s a rumour of a new load of second hand stuff coming in to the local shop, he’ll be there first, no doubt, haha. Regarding taste and attitude, I feel it reflects my own – finding the hidden gems, being adventurous and curious in the pursuit of good music. Not being dependent on big hits or hype to play a good set.
Do you see something of a younger Bjørn Torske in him?
We just have a similar approach, I think. Age isn’t that important, and Trym definitely has a much broader taste than I had at that age.
What is your musical relationship like outside of the booth; do you often share and talk about music, and how would that go usually; like a conversation or more like a student and his pupil?
We have been in the studio together on several occasions, and our first venture was a remix or rather a remake of some very strange old Italian ritual music. We also did a live studio set for Oslo Club Cast earlier this year, and that would be a good example of how we would be “talking” about music. To me it’s just a well working musical partnership, where we bounce ideas back and forth. I guess I learn as much from him as he does from me.
What, if anything have you taken from your experiences with Trym?
Many good musical ideas, and the sense of playing the ball back and forth gives a lot, especially since I’ve mostly focused on solo work throughout my career. And I think he has the same non-competitive approach. No forcing of ideas, just playing around and letting the music speak for itself.
What is the major difference in terms of how you got started in this music, compared to a younger DJ like Trym’s experiences today, from your point of view?
The presence of the internet, and the fact that there is a Norwegian scene for this music. It wasn’t back then, the few of us doing this felt isolated on a lonely island in the north. And also electronic music wasn’t widely accepted back then, quite different from today when you can actually get funds to do a PhD in electronic music.
What does he represent for the Bergen scene today in your opinion?
The underground house music movement.
Bergen must, like the rest of Norway, encourage a fair bit collaboration across genres, styles and generations. What do you think this instills in Norwegian club music and culture that sets it apart from other cities and countries?
On one hand, it’s a good environment for experimenting and pursuing weird ideas. The challenge is to get a focus in all the diversity. I don’t think that the“next big thing” will emerge here, but probably a handful of good and interesting music.
Do you think it is something that’s ever reflected in your work as an artist?
It suits me well, and yes, the musical openness has definitely influenced my approach to music. There is room to both play and produce dance music in a broad sense.
At least, I can see its influence in introducing an artist like Trym to the world, when you work together like on your recent remix for the Tarantismo record. What was it like working with him on a piece of music and has it cemented a working relationship that will extend beyond that record?
Yes, we’ve been working together on some material coming out on Prins Thomas’ Full Pupp label early next year. I also mixed my next mini-album in Trym’s studio. I’m also planning to do few remixes of his stuff.
Do you think that working on music together might feed back into the booth on the occasion when you do play together for a set like the upcoming one at Jaeger?
Yes, I think it does, and vice versa. Production and dj’ing are two sides of the same coin, and this has always been crucial to me – taking dj experiences back into the studio, translating the dynamics of a dance floor into the studio mix. And similarly, taking ideas born in the studio and applying them in the mixing of records.