By the time Mats Frantzvaag stepped out of the booth at Jaeger after his 2019 Boiler Room set, he had the crowd in a frenzy. People were literally hanging off him, hugging and high-fiving Mats as he made his way out of the basement and into the open air. He’d stirred the dance floor appropriately, laying the foundation for the night ahead with a punchy and effervescent House set that saw the dance floor swell in anticipation and excitement for the young Norwegian producer and DJ.
As Frantzvaag he had already released a couple of EPs on Smallville’s Fuck Reality imprint at that point, but in Norway he was still something of an unknown entity; a record producer with more notoriety outside of the country than in it. That Boiler Room night had all the hallmarks of a pivotal moment for Frantzvaag. Building on those first two records, the event only cemented our belief in this young artist, as a producer with some serious skills as a DJ.
Mats could have easily taken that momentum and channeled it into a string of EPs or singles to install the name Frantzvaag on the scene. Instead, he bided his time. He was not one to succumb to the hype, but rather took his time to cultivate his craft further. When I first interviewed Mats back around the release of his first EP, there was no doubt that he would eventually be a notable figure on Oslo’s scene with an international following, but he has been in no rush to get there. He DJs when he wants to –“if something cool crops up, not the ones I think I should do for money” – and he hasn’t released anything since 2018’s Fuck Reality 5.
He’s focus has been elsewhere. While he’s had enough material to release at least an EP a year, since, he’s ultimate objective over the course of these last 4 years has solidified around Frantzvaag’s debut in the LP. In yet another watermark in this artist’s young career, Solo Super is only Frantzvaag’s fourth release and its an album. It arrived at Easter, “a happy coincidence” according to Mats with a title that conveys some of that dry sense of Norwegian humour and the inherent sense of fun that remains at the core of House music’s purpose.
Solo Super is a House record that thwarts the obvious tropes that dog House music LPs; strengthening allegiances with the dance floor while at the same time stepping away from the functionalist loop-driven patterns. There’s an album there, something you could put on at home, without having to skip the obvious ambient track, and yet you could slip almost any track into a set, without missing a beat. There’s something entirely refreshing about Solo Super (pun intended) as you drift through the charged progressions. A layer of sonic dust covers everything in a warm and embracing atmosphere, while rhythm patterns strike an impulsive chord.
Depth and consideration follows the record through its nine tracks, and from Mats’ early Hip Hop influences to the passage of time that has passed through this record there’s a lot more to consider beyond the superficial nature of a House record. I sat down with Mats at Baklengs, an Oslo record store he runs with a few others, and over a conversation and an email, we tried to unpack the infectious charm of Solo Super.
What was the transition like going over from those two EPs into an LP?
It happened very naturally really. I did the two EPs and then I just kept sending him (Julius Steinhoff) tracks to choose from, and in the end was like, let’s go with these nine. It’s been in the books for a few years actually.
So you were working towards an LP, but not necessarily making the tracks with the thought of making an LP?
Not really, no.
Did the tracks on the LP overlap with the stuff you were making for the EPs?
Some of them. You can see some of the oldest tracks from the album were made in 2016. So that’s around the time when the first EP came out. I gradually added some stuff and removed some stuff.
And a theme emerged as you tried to bring tracks together that would fit amongst each other?
That’s interesting, because one of my initial thoughts when hearing the LP was that this sound a little bit different from the EPs, but I guess that would just be me inferring something that isn’t there?
Yes, but once I knew that the album was about to come, I made some tracks with that in mind also. The last track on the album for instance, is something that I thought we were missing. So it’s a gradual thing that evolved, rather than me sitting down to make an album.
It’s obviously a House record, but I would suggest that it’s perhaps not as focussed on the dance floor as a functional 12”.
Yes, so it’s basically me and Julius coming up with the track listing.
As you were coming up with the tracklisting, what were you looking for the tracks to make up the LP, and how would it have differed from the EPs?
I put more emphasis on finding tracks that represent different styles and moods than what I would normally do on an EP. More tracks = more chances to showcase different aspects of what I make. Moreover, I wanted the album to make sense and be interesting when listening through the whole thing, both in terms of which tracks were included and the order that they´re in.
Are you hoping this record will be finding its way into DJ record bags?
That’s also something I hope, at least some of the singles. I think it’s a nice thing to listen to throughout as well. I remember putting together the track list, and I was spending a lot of time going on long walks and listening to the tracks all the way through to see if it made any sense.
Did your approach to making music change at all throughout the period in which these songs were made?
The first EP it’s very sample-based, but on this there is a variation, because some of the tracks were made in the studio across the road, where I had access to more equipment.
I thought I could hear more analogue sounding synthesisers in the LP, than perhaps from the EPs.
Few of them are actual synthesisers and the rest of them are more me trying to process these sounds in a certain way.
There’s a very organic sound to the LP throughout. Is that from the samples or do you actively try to create that feeling somehow?
Some of the tracks don’t have that many samples either. It’s both that or it’s something I try to achieve, either through the use of samples or the method of processing the sounds.
Why was this the right time for an LP, because it sounds like you could have had a few more EPs out of this one record by the sounds of it?
It was more about having this one product that is more cohesive and shows the depth of what I can make. It’s more like a standpoint.
Was this mainly your idea or did Julius push towards making an LP?
It was a common goal, I think. We started talking about it when he was in Norway in 2018. Then it gradually appeared.
Besides that one Full Pupp record, you pretty much stayed with Smallville. It must be pretty conducive for your work.
Yes, I think so. I really like the aesthetics of the label, and they are really cool people. I haven’t put out that much really. I’ve been waiting to do this bigger project and see where it goes from there.
I was reading this interview with Joy O, about how he refrained from calling his last full-length an album, but rather a mixtape, because there is a bit of stigma around House albums. Do you think that is true?
Could be. But if you listen to my album, the tracks stand out for themselves as EPs too. So it’s more like a collection of tracks than a cohesive story, told through nine tracks made in a very short period. This is a collection of tracks that fit really well together.
It is definitely not the usual House album, with the two ambient tracks and a pop hopeful single with vocals. Every track is very much a dance food track on this.
That can get a bit uninspiring as well, when you force in an ambient track just to be there.
One thing that I noticed a lot on the record, is that there is a lot of dub stuff happening in the background.
I really like that. A lot of my tracks are very heavy on low pass filters and have stuff a bit muffled. So it doesn’t stand out that much, but it’s still there creating some kind of atmosphere.
Were there any specific influences or listening habits that informed this?
There is so much. I listen to a lot of dub and reggae at the shop and at home and all kinds of electronic stuff. What I listen to is usually not that similar to what I make.
And the Hip Hop Influence is still there. Everything from the sampling to the dusty feel of the entire record. Is this something that you have to consciously apply to your work?
It happens naturally actually. It’s just become part of how I make music, I usually just sit there and try to make this loop sound interesting, putting textures behind it.
Well that’s something else about this record, it’s not just loops.
No, but it starts out like that.
There’s a lot more progression through the tracks, and am I detecting more of a melodic element to these tracks compared to the EPs?
Yes, probably some of them.
Like Blommenholm. Was that one of the tracks that came after most of the LP was made?
Yes. That is also one of the few tracks that is a little bit slower and has a different vibe.
What do you look for in sounds when making music, because there’s not that 808-juno combination that dominates most of House music still?
They should stand out in some way and they should have some feeling to them. It’s not just a straight 808 drum; I’ll try and process it or use a sound that has some character. I usually layer quite a lot and try to make my own sounds.
How much input does Julius or the label have, when it comes to these production touches?
The only input he might have is about the length of a track to fit into the album, but nothing really on the production side. At the point of sending something away, I’ve already mixed it and done all of it. In my head it’s a finished product. It’s more that I send tracks to friends.
Like who, people involved in the industry?
Not really. Some childhood friends that are also into making music. I send it to Hacir (Payan) of course sometimes
He must have opinions?
He has opinions and often good ones.
Tell us a little more about the influence of the shop. At the time of your first interview with us, you were already talking about how the shop was having an affect on you.
Then I was only starting to get involved, and since then the shop has grown into more of a community. It’s a really nice place. Everytime I’m here I get exposed to so much music that I wouldn’t hear otherwise. Also you meet so many people and discuss music, so it’s a super big influence, I would say.
Was there anything that didn’t make it on the album that you would’ve liked to have on the LP?
There is always stuff, but that’s more recent stuff that didn’t really fit in with the rest of the album.
Do you think you’ll have another LP worth of tracks soon?
Would there be a similar approach to making this last album , or would you try to make something more concise?
Would be fun to do the more concise thing. I have no clear plans yet. I might do a few more EPs before then.