Straight outta Bergen: Talking to Kahuun

Kahuun’s Superduplex has been playing on repeat as I prepare some questions for the man behind the moniker, Kai Stoltz. The Beatservice release, with its euphorically sober intro, is an uncompromising Techno track with an aggressive sound palette, transported to the immediate future with a non-conformist attitude towards trend. There’s an element of fun to the record, and it naturally infects the questions I send him via email to his home in Bergen. Superduplex merely marks the tip of a remarkable iceberg of a career, and in some ways one that has completed a circle. It’s the latest chapter in a career that spans 20 years, but it also sees the producer making a return to his roots as a Techno DJ, a role Kahuun quite comfortably assumed in the early nineties. A DJ first and foremost, Kahuun found his musical voice through hip-hop and the DJ mixtape, when he connected a couple of tape players up with a din cable in his bedroom. It was through this primitive sampling and recording technique that he found an affinity with the mixtape and it pushed him into the world of the DJ, a world that eventually consumed all of him. Those early methods of recording eventually made their way into his first releases with edit-heavy house focused material finding a home on Paper Recordings in 1998 with “Long time no see.” Between then and 2005, Kahuun had steadily been releasing material, infusing his music with everything from break beats to jazz. Following something of a hiatus Kahuun returned to production in 2011 after a re-issue of 2001’s “Batteri”, but in 2015 it also marked a distinct move into Techno again from the DJ and producer. Fellow Bergen tech-heads, Ploink gave us our first taste with “ “Plenty of Headroom”, a mighty Techno track that once again hints at the Kahuun’s love of the break-beat, appropriated for the world of minimalists beat onslaughts. And it was soon accompanied by the beat service release that’s been steadily winding up through that magnificent intro again. So, with Kahuun providing soundtrack, we head off into our first question ahead of his appearance at Jæger tonight alongside Karima and DJ Nuhhh.


I read somewhere that your first adventures into multi-track recording was through two tape players and a din cable. What can you remember of those early experiments?

When I was around 13 years old, my younger brother and I got a cassette deck each for Christmas. This was a small deck with only one speaker, but it had a DIN connection to record audio. I experimented with making loops and stutters with the use of the pause button on the recording deck. It was also a good pitch effect holding the pause button half way in. I guess all of this was inspired by the Max Mix records, especially Max Mix 2, which also gave a glance into the world of Italo Disco.

So, it wasn’t multi track recording, only single track.

What was some of the music that prompted you to start creating your own music and why?

I wasn’t so much driven to create music at that time. It was the DJ thing that looked most exiting. When I watched the Beat Street movie at the cinema, in 1985 I think, it gave a glance of a culture that was so new and fresh. I guess I was hooked from that moment on.

What were your first DJ sets like?

I started DJ’ing at the local youth club in 1987 when I was 15, but didn’t play in a proper nightclub until I was 18. This was at a venue in Bergen called Choice where we played everything from disco, rock, dance and techno. Sometimes after closing hours we continued with the techno long into the late morning. This was exiting times for a young nerd like me.

What was Norway like as a creative environment during that period?

When I started Dj’ing at a techno venue in Bergen called Club Phoenix in 1993, I realized there was a lot of great electronic music being created in my own town. I had a Saturday residency at Club Phoenix with Bjørn Torske, who had just moved to Bergen from Tromsø, and it was quite inspiring playing with him and other good friends, like Erot, Balthazar, Gymbag etc.

Your first official 12” came out on paper recordings in 1998. How did it come to fruition and how did the connection between a label from Manchester and an artist from Norway evolve before the days of the Internet?

Some friends of mine (Those Norwegians) were signed to Paper Recordings and released their, still fantastic, album Kaminzky Park in 1997. I took the opportunity to use this connection and sent a demo tape to Manchester. Yes, it was a proper DAT tape sent by proper mail. They liked what they heard and communication was through phone and fax.

Long time no see, takes its melody from the Stones’ Paint it black. How did it find its way into the track?

I have actually never mentioned this to anyone, but ahem…, this sample was never cleared, so I hope I am not going to jail…

The sample is taken from Eric Burdon & War’s medley version of Paint It Black from 1970. A fantastic version with massive percussions, flutes and hypnotic spoken words.

You’ve hovered around house with some very eclectic influences, like the previous one you mentioned, making their way into your music. What has been your approach to music and genres since the start of your career and has it changed much over the years?

I found great inspiration in the 80’s and 90’s hip hop and electronica, such as The KLF, The Shamen, Prodigy, The Orb, Eric B & Rakim, De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe called Quest and Digable Planets. There was a national radio show every Friday called Bomlagadafshipoing which was very inspirational. I think I have most of their shows on tape. Later I found rhythmical inspiration from weird Funk, Soul, Latin and Afro-beat records.

A break-beat can often be found in your music and along with things like that paint it black melody, it creates an element of fun on your records. Is that an essential part of creating music for you?

I have so much fun creating music I guess it is hard for me to avoid adding fun elements. It is just part of the experimenting and creative process. In most of my tracks I experiment with loads of elements just for the fun, and sometimes it just fits and I keep it. 90% of those elements are deleted.

It’s something of a Norwegian disposition I find: music that takes itself lightly without losing the professional touch. Do you agree?

I think it is a positive and uplifting vibe in the Norwegian way of thinking and creating music that you can probably hear around. This again will infect the listener and crowd at the club. You know, laughter is very infectious.

There was a bit of a hiatus in the mid 2000’s, at least on the production side of things. Is there a reason your career was put on hold temporarily?

For me it has been healthy having a “serious” daytime job to get the contrasts in my life between the office and the studio. At some point this job stole a lot of my time and focus. I didn’t stop producing music, but focused a bit more on the day-job, bought a house, got married and got two amazing inspiring kids.

And one of the things that happened upon your return was that Batteri was re-issued on Sex Tags. How did that happen?

Batteri was first released on 12” in 2001 on the HiFi Terapi label by my friend Eivind Olsvik. Sex Tags asked me if I wanted to re-release the track as a 10 year anniversary, and that is how it got re-released. Sex Tags had a smashing release party at Landmark in Bergen where myself and my mate Leca played live, post too many bottles of cava…

The music certainly stood the test of time, but how do you feel about music you’ve made in the past finding a new audience in the present and how does it influence your future work?

Production wise it has been very inspiring listening to what the young producers do today. They have such good control in the low frequency areas. My early work was produced using a Fast Tracker as my tool, and there was no chance to control the eq on the channels. No fancy plugins with sidechain control or filters. Everything on the Paper 12” was programmed on 6 channels in Fast Tracker.

I hope that my diversity in music influence after 30 years of music input adds some elements to my production that can again inspire others and also trigger the dance foot if you are on a dancefloor, or on the street, or wherever you like to dance. I still learn something new every day in the studio, and there are so much exiting and inspiring things going on at the gear side today, that I really feel I am still at the starting line and so motivated to continue creating music for decades.

In 2015 you’ve made the move into Techno essentially. What inspired you to move into the genre that started it all for you and how did you intend on making it your own?

I feel that Techno has always been a part of me since the early days. When I was 16 I could easily lie on the floor and listen to Sleezy D’s “I’ve lost control” over and over again. My production has maybe been a bit softer than what I am working on at the moment. My friend Thomas Paulsen, who runs the techno label Ploink, asked me if I would like to do a few techno tracks, and that pushed me into new and exciting waters.

That eclecticism is still very much the essence of what you do, I find. From Plenty of Headroom’s break beat and Superduplex’s moroder-like extended intro. What bits of music have been influencing you recently?

As a DJ I of course need to keep an open ear to all the new stuff, but when it comes to inspiration for my own production I tend to listen to timeless electronic classics as much as young heroes such as Todd Terje and Andre Bratten. It has also been very inspiring working together with my mates Kohib and Leca.

Is this style of production something you’ll be developing further in the future do you think?

As I see it now, I will probably be heading more into deep, dark and fun electronica, but it is the inspiration at the creative point that decides. A morning production can be very different than an after midnight production. I guess the inspirational mood follows the sun.

And after all these years of making music and basically moving into a new chapter for 2015, what is the underlining essence of the sound that embodies Kahuun across all the years, platforms and influences?

I find it hard to create music without a twist on the beats and a groovy bassline. Even if I plan to create techno.

What is the pipeline for Kahuun?

Right now I am working on some tracks for the Kohib & Kahuun EP2. I also work on some stuff to be out on Paper Recordings.

On the live side I am preparing a live set for Den Elleville Festen in Bergen September 19th and also a live set together with Kohib for the Ekko festival in Bergen October 31st. Exciting times!

What has been playing in the background while you’ve answered these questions?

Max Mix 2 from 1985, straight outta Youtube.