Oslo and Electronic Music in Conversation with REDRUM

In 2007 Oslo was starving for an electronic music scene. Dominated by rock and the last remnants of a death metal scene wearing out its welcome, Oslo’s electronic music landscape was little more than a blip on electronic music’s radar. I was here in 2007 and besides Sunkissed and the odd occasion at Villa, there was very little here to quench my first for new and exciting electronic music. Save for Nu Disco, which was getting a lot more attention elsewhere, electronic music in Oslo was very much still an underground experience in the city. Electronic music in Oslo was by and large a taboo and clubbing in the city was met mostly with disdain from Norwegian peers. I recall mentioning going to an after party at Sjokolade Fabrikken to a colleague only to be welcomed with a disapproving grunt, like I was partaking in some sort of criminal activity. Even though electronic music in Oslo was somewhat niche, there were some great moments – like said after party. But moments like those were few and far between and if you were looking for electronic music at the time, you were better off booking a ticket to Berlin or London.

Fast-forward to today and the scene is vastly different. The number of venues featuring electronic music has notably increased, and there’s a healthy electronic music program in the city seven days a week thanks to places like Jæger and the continued efforts by places like Villa and promoters like Sunkissed to bring electronic music to the city. It’s mostly a result of a global increase in interest for electronic music, propelled by the established artists and DJs, but it’s also very much a result of Oslo and Norway’s continued –albeit subsidiary – involvement in electronic music since the nineties through artists like Biosphere, Mental Overdrive and later more pop-orientated Royksopp. It’s in this era that Robin Crafoord (Trulz and Robin) would arrive in Oslo in 1996 and be introduced to a scene that “wasn’t as mainstream as it is today”, but included many of the same faces, like g-Ha. Like in 2007 there were very few clubs to choose from, but unlike 2007, the scene “was very alive, and the few clubs that were there were super cool, underground places.” The strict alcohol laws were just being introduced and although you couldn’t buy a drink after 3am, you could at least stay out till 5am if you knew where to go. “People felt a lot more free than are today”, says Robin about the nightlife at the time, but at the same time, “people had to know about it.” It was a small yet dedicated scene for those informed, but it was based on something completely new and exciting, with electronic music still very much in development stages as dance music. “Now it’s a bit easier to find”, according to Robin as electronic dance music today is far more ingrained in popular culture than it was ever before and with that comes a sort of mediocrity, where that excitement of something new is overpowered by the monotony of being able to experience the same thing over and over again, with little diversion from the acceptable norm. It’s here where Robin and a group of friends, including Jon Ole Flø come into the picture with a new event called Redrum. Robin and co wants to bring back some of that excitement he first encountered around electronic music, and in a landscape where electronic music is the dominant form of music today, this means retreating to the shadows in search of the unusual and the progressive. They want to bring a unique experience to people that are now familiar with electronic music, and looking for something a little different, something that a younger generation of electronic music aficionado like Jon Ole Flø might not be familiar with.

Jon Ole represents this generation, as an electronic musician and DJ, who was raised on electronic music, unlike Robin and I who would have had to arrive at it. “Electronic music started quite early” for Jon Ole, when as a kid he would get recorded electronic music as Christmas gifts. Being familiar with electronic music from a young age and studying classical percussion, Jon Ole quickly garnered a taste for the alternative side of the music through artists like Aphex Twin and Authecre. Coming from a small island in Norway populated by fewer than 1000 people, Jon Ole’s first experience of clubbing only came later when he moved to Malmö, Sweden in his early twenties. “There were a lot of underground (illegal) clubs and many of them were located on one particular street in an old industrial area. “Jon Ole’s introduction to clubbing and electronic music is quite the opposite of Robin’s. For Robin’s, and in part my generation, clubbing and electronic music were one and the same, and because it was still fairly marginal, everything about it was new and exciting. For Jon Ole and his generation, who had been raised on electronic music, clubbing has become commonplace, and with that, the excitement of experiencing something new in that context has been exhausted from the experience. Robin suggests that “everything is so established and professional it can also be a little bit boring sometimes”, and Jon Ole agrees. “There’s a lot of good clubs in Oslo, but I think this opens up new possibilities, to explore a different clubbing experience.”

Although they’ve experimented with this before, together and independently with nights like their 7-hour Drexiya listening event at Mir, the group involved with Redrum, which also includes Asbjørn Blokkom Flø, Astrid Einarsdotter and Andreas Mork (Sannergata) are looking to create a clubbing experience that is set to call in a new era for Oslo, based on the scene’s origins and Robin’s early experiences with electronic music. At the same time, Redrum will also offer a new experience to a younger generation of electronic music fan, like Jon Ole. They’ve opted to host the event on the second floor of a restaurant, bringing in a custom sound system for the event. In some ways this embodies the spirit of Robin’s early years in the city, but it also brings something new to Oslo’s clubbing and electronic music landscape, something that’s already found a home in places like London and Berlin. “Nobody’s done that for a long time in Oslo,” says Robin. “There’s been some parties in weird pubs, but then it’s only been around for short a period of time before it disappeared.” Jon Ole believes a venue like the one they’ve chosen is one of the “good places in Oslo that’s not being used”, but it’s not just about the unusual venue they’ve chosen, but also dependent on the music policy Redrum will look to implement.

“Now that there is a big scene in House and Techno and you can experiment a little more with House and Techno,” according to Robin and that is exactly what they intend to do. As electronic music grew in popularity all over the world, and the scene exploded with new music, the music that would often feature in the clubs, would for the most part be of a functional nature that could accommodate dancing, without alienating a populist audience, especially in Oslo. “It’s not often I feel like I can’t get away with playing an Autechre track in Villa or Jæger”, says Robin whose experience as DJ is two decades in the making. And for a younger audience, who’s only exposure to electronic music comes in the club context – because lets face it, the radio is still quite conservative, and the internet is quite a minefield if you don’t know where to look for new electronic music – this means that coming across forward-thinking electronic music in Oslo is difficult. Even places like London and Amsterdam, whose bigger venues are no different from Jæger or Villa, requires some digging to find events and venues catering for an alternative audience, with the major difference being that such an audience is much larger than it ever will be in Oslo. Robin, Jon Ole and co want to “open the curtain and dive into the unknown” with Redrum and they want to take Oslo with them, playing the kind of music you won’t essentially hear out in the city at the moment. Jon Ole hopes people “come for the music” and even though electronic music is today far more established than it was in 2007 or 1996, Redrum offers yet another development in the city’s remarkable growth in electronic music and the culture that follows it.

I’ve hardly been back a year and already the face of Oslo and electronic music is a complete contrast from before I left. There are incredibly exciting things happening here all the time, and each weekend I’m faced with making difficult decisions as the where to go to get my fill of electronic music in the city. Everywhere I go I find audiences more eager to participate in clubbing excursions in the city and a general attitude towards club culture and electronic music that’s far more liberal than anything I’d witnessed in the past. It’s the perfect time to experiment then and an event like Redrum gives us the opportunity to do just that. Now that most of Oslo is on very familiar terms with electronic music it’s time we take a step outside of the mainstream and have a peak behind the curtain where the unknown lurks and a new adventure in electronic music awaits.

* You can find out more about REDRUM and their opening event on the 16th of January here.