Tonarunur & Private Agenda tell us about their fab collab ‘Suspended In Motion’

Tonarunur

Chris Massey talks to Tonarunur about his brilliant collaboration ‘Suspended in Motion’ with Private Agenda and how the project came together with a tease about future projects I feel, bring it on, Gauti!

With such a distance between all 3 of you, can you let us know how this collaboration came about and a little about the working practice?

I had been following PA’s work for some time. One day I decided to contact them to see if they were willing to provide vocals for one of my tracks. Much to my amusement, they were willing to do so. Not only did they sing, but they also co-wrote the track. The melody and lyrics are entirely theirs.

Did you each bring something individual regards experience or specific studio skills, or was it very much a collaboration all along the way?

I made the instrumental version, and PA took it from there on…The initial version was slightly different, though, way more “fruity”. Fortunately, we did some cut-downs for the track, and as a result, the track has this “minimal, dreamy and floaty” vibe. Or I certainly hope that is the case!

What would you say your influences (if any!) had been when working on Suspended In Motion?

When I started working on the instrumental version I was going for some “Imagination’s Just An Illusion but heard from a distance” vibe…If that makes any sense. The track sounds like it could work well in some form of live set-up & performance, is that something that had/has been considered? That hasn’t been discussed, but who knows…

Is it the first of many collaborations between Tonarunur & Private Agenda?

The same goes for that one. We haven’t talked about it, but since it was a pleasure working with PA, I wouldn’t say no to another collaboration!

Lastly, favourite studio snacks to crunch on whilst working?

I try to avoid snacks whilst working because it tends to distract me from the music. But if I had to choose one it would be some sort of chocolate filled with liquorice.

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Marius Sommerfeldt – UnPlugged

Photo: Thomas Ekström

Marius Sommerfeldt, Norwegian electronic producer, marketer and event promoter, was interviewed last week about what is floating his boat. Thanks, Marius, your EP rocks!

1. You’ve had a few different production aliases, with each one being pretty significantly diverse from the other. From the deeper acid squelch of the De Fantastiske To productions to the Garage-esque sounds of Trudee Nite, where would you say you get your influences from, and where does the Sommerfeldt project differ from previous?

Yeah, it’s been a few over the years. The inspiration comes from my record collection, DJ style, taste in music and my surroundings. The Sommerfeldt alias is 100% my playground as a solo producer, and it’s a bit more straight-up house and atmospheric than the other productions. I figured I needed a name to put out my productions and not hide behind just another weird alias.

2. The new E.P. (for us!) definitely carries what we call that ‘classic Paper sound’, yet it still retains something that is quintessentially Norwegian about it. Where do you see the Norway sound now, and would you say there are any specific characteristics that you personally work into your productions?

Thank you, guys! I’m a huge Paper fan, you know. The Norwegian sound is slowly taking its turn towards a new generation of producers and DJs; their non-existing boundaries of how to do stuff and what is «right» or «not» is refreshing! All the club genres are melting in house, techno, trance, UK-garage, breakbeat and even hardcore & jungle.. everything is allowed!

3. What is your work ethic in the studio? Do you just tend to go with the flow, or do you try to get certain elements done each day/session?

First of all, I always start with the groove, I like to fiddle with the drum machines for an hour or two just to make that perfect drum loop. Then I add the bassline, which I have a tendency to keep pretty groovy and minimal to play in the melodies and atmospheres on top. When it comes to finishing a track I usually swear a lot for the next few hours and probably grab a cold one in the fridge while philosophizing about the meaning of life. Making music has ups and downs, but I always manage to land on both my feet in the end.

4. On this release, you feature both Sigmund Floyd & Nora on some stunning vocal duties. How did those relationships come about, and what was the process of creating the lyrics/vocals? Did you have a specific vibe, or was it very much a ‘do what you want’ scenario?

The tracks were pretty much an instrumental demo when I sent them to Nora and Sigmund. Then a few projects were sent back and forth before we met in the studio for a couple of writing and vocal sessions, and we quickly found the vibe we were looking for, I love them both, they are so professional, creative and fun to work with!

5. Lastly, studio snacks are a necessity for me, and I always like to know what other like-minded music makers munch on when doing a session! Are there any specific Norwegian delicacies you stock up on before hiding away in the studio all day?

Have you tried Norwegian milk chocolate? One cup of coffee, a large plate of Freia milk-chocolate… say no more!

 

Photo: Thomas Ekström

Memoirs from Norway’s underground dance pioneers: Joakim Haugland #9

Travelling around Norway in the Spring is a fantastic experience. During my trip in 2013, we hooked up with the key movers and shakers involved in forming the country’s house and disco scenes. I was lucky enough to touch down in Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø, and many weird and beautiful places in the surrounding areas. I travelled with Ben Davis, who was directing the film we were working on, formed from interviews with the key people from the dance scene plus Paper Recording’s label artists such as Those Norwegians. We were also curious about the country, geography, and people and how they influenced each other’s creative passions. This film had a working title of ‘Northern Disco Lights – The Rise and Rise of Norwegian House Music’. During our visit, we spoke to as many of the DJs, producers, promoters and radio stations as we could and decided to publish these best bits that sum up the trip, the film and our findings.

Joakim Haugland is the owner and has been the driving force behind the Smalltown Supersound label for over 20 years. He grew up in the small town of Flekkefjord in Norway’s south; hence his record label’s name: Smalltown Supersound. It has released music from internationally recognised artists such as Kim Hiorthøy, Jaga Jazzist, Neneh Cherry, Bruce Russell, Brian Reitzell, Kelly Lee Owens, DJ Harvey, Mats Gustafsson, Sonic Youth, Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas, Bjørn Torske and Todd Terje.

Joakim Haugland -Smalltown Supersound

© 2014 Paper Vision Films: Joakim Haugland, Founder of Smalltown Supersound label based in Oslo, Norway.

Were you aware of when dance culture started taking off in Norway?
No, not at all. I would say because I came from indie-rock and punk, I guess. So for me, it was like SST Records, Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth, and of course bands like Cabaret Voltaire and Einstürzende Neubauten. When I was younger, I was listening to what was happening in England with Underworld and Orbital. I was kind of like this indie kid. I started working at the distributor Voices of Wonder in Norway and worked in their distribution warehouse for nine months. That was, I think, in the summer of 97 or 98. It was kind of like when the whole house thing blew up with Atlantic Jaxx, Glasgow underground, Paper [Recordings], Nuphonic, NRK, Soma and all these other labels. So I was kind of like putting all these records in parcels! At the warehouse, all the other guys were older than me, and they were always listening to this music. It got into my head at one point, and I brought some of the records with me at home, and I liked it. But I didn’t understand it because I was coming from this guitar world.

After a while, I started promoting Voices of Wonder [VOW] and became label manager for labels like Warp. I got really into that because going from Sonic Youth to Warp is not such a big step. From there, I went gradually more into electronic music and jazz with bands like Jaga Jazzist. All these things led me to Per Martinsen of Mental Overdrive. Via him, I met Lindstrøm when VOW was promoting the Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas album for Eskimo Recordings because we were distributing that for Norway, so I ended up managing interviews for him. We hooked up to grab a coffee, and then we started to work together. I understood that he had the same approach to his music that I had because I had never been this twelve-inch buying DJ myself. He wasn’t that much into indie music; he was more into west coast US psychedelic music from the 70s and Kraut-y stuff. But he was not from what I would call the 12” inch music from London if you know what I mean. So I think that we are more album people, you know what I mean, and I’m still that. I believe that he grew up with that art of the album himself. So I think that that was how we met musically. If you look at his discography, you can see that there are more albums than 12”s, so he is not a twelve-inch kind of guy. I would also say that my goal starting to work with him was to have him promoted into the world of Uncut, Mojo and Wire magazines. And not only take him out of the Mixmag and the DJ magazines because he is very marginal. And it stops at one point. I heard all these influences from psychedelic music, west coast, Kraut and folk music in his music. So I think there is no difference between him and Robert Wyatt. Why should they write about Robert Wyatt and not Lindstrom? They have the same kind of influences, or I feel there is the same kind of feel in the music to say something like Robert Wyatt. He’s not just playing in festivals where people are dancing on the beach and partying and stuff like that. He’s playing at music festivals together with folk and metal and hardcore, and that’s kind of where I think his music should be.

Do you see Smalltown Supersound as a label representing Norwegian dance music?
In a way, the disco and electronic scene is excellent, and the jazz scene and black metal. But outside of that, I don’t find it that interesting. In the beginning, I was kind of trying almost to hide the fact that Smalltown Supersound was a Norwegian label when I was a kid because I started the label when I was 16; it was just tape! There seemed to be an advantage coming from Norway because all the labels are from New York and London. So it was good to be from the outside. I never wanted the label to be just a dance label or only for electronic music. My ideal label would be, and this is nerdy, but like Rough Trade between 1979 and 1981, when there was Cabaret Voltaire, Robert Wyatt and stuff like Arthur Russell.
All these styles mashed up. I don’t want my label to be one sound or genre. If you are just a sound and the sound dies out, the label will die as well. That’s what we saw with labels such as Mo-Wax; when trip-hop was over, the label was over. I’m trying to have this diverse label, but I guess many people see it as a disco label, and I’ve also heard that it’s a jazz label and an indie label. It depends on what’s coming out at the time, and sometimes it’s like a lot of disco music coming out, sometimes a lot of jazz. I want there to be a real [musical] thread within the label holding it together. That’s probably the unique thing with dance music in Norway. Take a guy like Lindstrøm; he’s never listened to much dance music. He’s more into Crosby, Stills and Nash, Fleetwood Mac, psychedelic music or west coast music from the seventies. The same with Prins Thomas, who comes from a punk-rock background. I think that Smalltown Supersound reflects that. I’m from an indie background, and I release dance music, but I also release indie music and jazz.

Northern Disco Lights, Family Tree poster

Do you feel Todd Terje, Lindstrom and Prins Thomas are inspired by pioneers such as Bjørn Torske and thought, “if they can do it, we can’t we do it”?
I think everybody is looking at Bjørn Torske. That’s what I have learned throughout the years; it’s like Bjørn Torske is The Godfather in a way. He was the first. What’s unique is that he lives in his ‘own’ world, so he doesn’t get influenced by trends. I’ve been record shopping with him in Chicago, and he knows exactly what he wants, totally independent of what’s happening on the scene. He’s just in a bubble. I think that’s why his music production is so unique. I don’t think there is anybody around that makes music like him. I would say that he is the pioneer. The sad thing is that he is not the most popular [internationally], but that I guess that’s the way of the world when you are a true pioneer.

Do you think that the landscape and geography influence electronic dance music in northern Norway?
It’s easier to see that from the outside, maybe, but I would say that there’s melancholy in the music. I can see that in Icelandic music, and I can see that in Swedish, and I’m Norwegian. I think it’s in all kinds of Norwegian music. I don’t believe that this style of electronic dance music could be produced in Los Angeles, where the sun is up all the time. We learn to appreciate the sun more in Norway because we don’t see the sun very often. So I think that that’s an essential element. There is a lot of rain, snow and dark season nights and days, which I believe can be found in the mood of the music.

How do you think Norwegian electronic dance music is perceived abroad?
Norwegian dance music is perceived as leftfield. I struggle to understand that because some of the music released on Smalltown Supersound is very commercial. Even when I talk to ‘club heads’ from England, they think that Lindstrøm’s ‘Way You Go’ album is too leftfield and radical. I don’t find that album radical at all; I think it’s a commercial album; however, it does have a 30-minute long track, but it’s beautiful floating music. I don’t see any leftfield elements in it at all, but maybe that’s to our advantage that we don’t know the avant-garde, leftfield style ourselves. Perhaps that’s what makes Norwegian dance music stick out from everything else?

Idjut Boys in Oslo

© 2014 Paper Vision Films: The Idjut Boys DJing in Oslo circa 1998

What are your memories of the Bergen Wave phenomenon?
Mikal Telle has been a friend for many years, and his label, ‘Telle Records,’ was an inspiration. I started Smalltown Supersound before him, but his Telle took off quickly. Smalltown Supersound started growing when I began releasing cassette tapes at a very young age and just learning about the business gradually as the label developed. Smalltown Supersound is a big part of my personality, and it reflects my taste in music. I was inspired by what was happening to Mikal. I don’t envy him that much that it happened so fast, but he has the best taste and is by far the best A&R manager in Norway. Telle Records is a beautiful part of Norwegian musical dance music history.

How did you find out about music, fashion and culture in Norway?
I remember reading a Norwegian magazine when I was a kid and there was an interview with Geir Jenssen [Biosphere] and Per Martinsen [Mental Overdrive]. It was inspiring for me because I lived in a tiny town without the internet. It was impossible to get movies and music, so I travelled to Oslo to buy music and cultural stuff. I began releasing music on cassette tapes and seven-inch vinyl, not knowing what a record company was! So, I read this interview with Geir and Per saying that the only thing you needed to connect with the rest of the world was a fax machine. That sounds strange now, but that’s what they were doing. They were sitting at home in Tromsø, the north of Norway, making music, sending faxes and DAT tapes to R&S Records in Brussels, Belgium. They finally got their music released on R&S Records and distributed to the world. They had international careers, and that was incredibly inspiring to me.

How do you think the producers absorbed the musical and cultural influences?
I think that Geir and Per were inspired by what was happening in the whole world. They took influences from what was happening at R&S Records in Brussels, from London and brought it all home. They absorbed it into their way of producing music, mixing it with Norwegian influences. When you listen to Bjorn Torske, there’s a lot of dub and reggae influences. I don’t know where he got it from exactly, but I think it was the record shopping trips to London and bringing the new music back into the Norwegian scene that makes the sound.

Why does Norway have such a solid connection to the disco genre?
For me, the disco connection links DJ Harvey to Idjut Boys to Bjørn Torske and Erot. If there are any connections between Erot and Bjorn Torske and DJ Harvey, there is a strong connection between the Idjut Boys and Bjørn Torske and Erot. I feel that Harvey and the Idjut Boys are from the same musical subculture that the Norwegians; they are big heroes of Bjørn Torske, Erot and the Norwegian electronic dance music scene. I don’t think there is anything already within Norwegian culture that seems ‘disco-ish. As I see it, the foundation of everything disco is Bjørn Torske and Erot, who think they were the ones who started it. Per and Geir were more into the genre of techno and ambient. Bjørn started making more techno style production, but it changed when Erot and Bjørn started making more house and disco music.

© 2010 Smalltown Supersound: Bjørn Torske, “Kokning”

How did the album with the Idjut Boys come about on Smalltown Supersound?
I felt that they were the inspiration for a lot of the artists on my label. It started when Rune Lindbæk told me about this album with the two of them, ‘Desire Lines’ by Meanderthals. It’s still one of my favourite albums in my catalogue, and it’s timeless. The Idjut Boys behave like Norwegians and have the same mood and attitude, and Dan is even married to a Norwegian. So there were all these connections to Norway, so it felt obvious to release that album. I was delighted to be working with those guys.

Why do you think that there is so much collaboration within the Norwegian electronic dance music community?
Because it’s so tiny, you’re socialising in and around clubs. In the beginning, you had Skansen, and then you had Jazid and then you had Blå. People meet at these places, and then they help and work with each other with the business aspects, the remixes or production. It is so much more significant in London, and I wouldn’t know where to meet these kinds of people, here it’s straightforward. I think it’s also part of the scene’s success because everybody is collaborating, helping and inspiring each other. They are doing it together and sticking together.

Is there competition between the artists in the electronic dance music community?
There is healthy competition as everybody is passionate about being as good as their friends and fellow producers and DJs to become as good as their neighbour. So if you see, some of these people have studios very close to each other and stuff, but I think it’s healthy. I don’t believe that the producers and DJs are wealthy but have been DJs the whole time during their production careers; I guess that’s the business of DJing; it’s the same the world over. But, of course, Norway is an excellent country to live in, and it might have influenced the ability of these guys to produce and buy new music and how they consumed the culture around them.

Do you think the different cities and locations can have different sounds?
I don’t know. There are not so many people in Bergen except for Bjørn and Röyksopp doing this kind of music. They became superstars in that kind of music and went on to make other music. I don’t feel like they are part of this scene at all if it is a scene. I think that Bjørn is in his creative world. He’s kind of in this bubble. I believe that Oslo is the principal city for dance music at the moment. Some of the most recognised producers like Röyksopp, Geir Jenssen and Bjørn Torske came from Tromsø but don’t live there nowadays apart from Per Martinsen!

Do you think the landscape in Tromsø has had an effect on the music from there?
For Biosphere, obviously, it had, because of this kind of cold, ambient thing. I’d also say it for the cold techno music. So it’s pretty weird that they are making warm house and disco music because it has nothing to do with the ice-cold and nature you see in Tromsø. So maybe the answer to your question is that all these people moved from Tromsø to Bergen.

How did you hook up with Todd Terje?
He works in a neighbouring studio of Lindstrom and Prins Thomas, and I knew him through friends. Since the start, he’s been part of the scene, and everyone knows everybody as it’s so tiny! I was surprised by the success of Todd’s ‘Inspector Norse’ in many ways because it was a beautiful thing that happened without us spending a lot of money to make it happen. It became massive with just word of mouth. Just the way we wanted it. It was just Terje, and I am doing all the work on our own. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. It was making such a global impact without a budget and just the two of us doing the promotion. It is an EP, it’s not an album, and EPs are harder to promote because you don’t get all the reviews that you usually get in the big broadsheets and music magazines. It was a long process, but because it is such a great track, people started to talk about it, and then it happened, blew up. It is a lovely process to witness. Todd Terje is from the dance world, so I don’t think that albums inspire him in the same way that Lindstrøm has been. As a DJ, he knows what works on the dancefloor and makes dancers feet move. I guess this is similar to Prins Thomas, as he comes from a punk-rock background.

© 2015/2001 Smalltown Supersound/Tellé: Bjørn Torske, “Trøbbel”

Do you think the success of these artists (Röyksopp, Todd Terje, Lindstrøm) has now made it easier for Norwegian artists to be successful internationally?
I would hope that Bjørn Torske and Mungolian Jetset [Pål “Strangefruit” Nyhus and Knut Sævik] could be famous as well, but it’s those three who get the headlines. I would say that Bjørn Torske is out on his own, and that’s what makes him so unique.

What do you see as the future of Norwegian dance music?
Some younger producers make this kind of music, but I feel you need life experience and an extensive record collection to produce the sound they create because it’s an advanced, complex style of music. It’s light-years away from what I would call ‘head banger’ kind of music. There’s no fuss and turning the volume up to 11. The music is not just about dropping ecstasy and dancing. I think that this scene is accidental. Behind it are many years of DJing, playing in bands, and developing an extensive record collection! To use a football analogy, the goalkeeper always get better the older they get, between 30 to 36 years old. It’s a peculiar thing. The rest of the team is peaking, maybe 24 or 25, so the disco scene is more like the goalkeepers; they are getting better the older they become. So I think there is a bright future for these guys like Todd Terje, Hans Peter Lindstrøm, and Prins Thomas because I don’t think age will influence their music production careers. You can see with the Idjut Boys and DJ Harvey; they get better and better. So I don’t think it’s true that you are too old to play or produce this dance music. On the contrary, I believe that the older you are, the better you become!

Do you feel supported by the Norwegian media?
It’s an underground scene, but I would say as the journalists are really supportive, the artists get good reviews and press coverage. When I started to promote Lindstrøm’s album at VOW, we told the most influential press and media that he was remixing Madonna to encourage them to write about him; it worked! I had to use a little trick to get the press to write about the album. It seems easier nowadays because Norway is perceived as an ‘underdog’ type of country punching above its weight. Our population is only 5 million, so every time a Norwegian does anything ‘good’, even in chess or in football, you get a lot of attention. Even more so with music. So if you get attention abroad, you will get attention at home. That’s how it works.

What is your favourite Norwegian record?
Biosphere’s ‘Patashnik’ album meant a lot to me when I was young. It was produced early in Norway’s dance music history; he was Norwegian, and it had a Norwegian sound. It sounded like he was part of the same world as Aphex Twin, The Orb, Orbital and Underworld. If I had to choose a single track, it would be ‘I Feel Space’ by Hans Peter Lindstrøm because the tune has been so influential. It’s like a classical composition.

Who is your favourite Norwegian producer?
Bjørn Torske has been there from the very beginning, and Lindstrøm because he keeps on producing new music and is evolving the whole time. He always takes it to the next step so that none of his production ever sound the same. So I think that in 10, 15, 20 years, you will be able to look back and see a coherent thread through his music but with a good dose of diversity.

Your favourite Norwegian club?
That’s easy, Blå from 1999 to 2005. It was primarily a jazz club. Sunkissed DJs (Geir Aspenes and Olanskii), Prins Thomas, Pål “Strangefruit”, and Todd Terje had their club nights there. It was the most happening place after, first you had Skansen, then you had Jazid. I went to both Skansen and Jazid a few times. But I was mostly hanging out here in this venue when it was called ‘So What’. When this club shut down in 1999 or 2000, I moved over to Blå. From 99 to 2005, when they changed owners was magic years where it was a mixture of jazz, avant-garde music, indie-rock and club music. I think that that’s also the core of the scene because, at this club, you could have a free jazz concert on a Friday night from 9 to 11, and then you could have like a Prins Thomas club night right after. So you could go from Arthur Doyle free jazz, crazy set, right over to a Prins Thomas set. And to be honest, there’s a lot of similarities between Arthur Doyle and Prins Thomas. But it seemed crazy on the paper, but when you were there, it was all mixing beautifully. And that is why Blå is such a special place because it was not a pure dance place like Skansen, Jazid, as you can hear in name, it was more like a jazzy electronic place. Skansen was a dance place. But Blå was this mixture of genres, but mostly a jazz and dance club space where you could also have noise, hardcore, and all kinds of underground sounds. And everybody met there, a lot of music, musicians and producers mixed at Blå from 98 to 2005 when they had their best years. Blå was very influential for both my artists and label for both the jazz and electronic side. Again, it was about tearing down the walls between genres.

 

© 2014 – Paper Vision Ltd (Pete Jenkinson/Ben Davis)

Recorded on a Zoom H2.

Transcribed by Fingertips, Louie Callegari and Tongue Tied.

Memoirs from Norway’s underground dance pioneers: Geir Jenssen #8

This video was unearthed on our travels during 2016, the tape was actually found in a skip after a studio clearance, was rescued and digitised. Some of it makes the cut!

Director/interviewer: Casper Evensen

Commissioned & Produced: R&S Records

Location: Lysverket Studios, Tromsø, Norway.

Date: circa 1994/95

 

Casper Evensen (CE): Is isolation something that forms your music, makes it extraordinary?

Geir Jenssen – Biosphere (GR): Yes, I think so, in a way we’re isolated from what’s happening in England and Europe. And that makes it easier to have a certain style and do something others don’t.

(CE): but with this new technology, will you make remix after remix and sample some here and there, will that make it (the music) simpler in a way?

(GR): No. The better equipment you have, the bigger goal you set yourself, to make something brand new, that no one has ever made before. It’s actually harder.

(CE): Where is Geir Jensen (Biosphere) heading after ‘the’ Levi’s commercial (Novelty Waves was placed in an ad by Levis)?

(GR): I am working on my next double CD. The first CD I made in the dark period of the year; you hear that in the music. Now that the sun is back, I will make the second CD, another version of the CD I made in the dark period, with more sun in the music.

(CE): Film music Geir, your genre and your way of working should be perfect for this, have you given it any thoughts?

(GR): Yeah, I have made music for a couple of short films and I’m pretty sure a film will happen in near future.

(CE): Is this something that interests you?

(GR): Yes, I would very much like to do that.

(CE): Why is Tromsø happening right now for this type of music?

(GR): First of all, it’s a lot of very talented people here. But I also think that if you compare Tromsø and Oslo. Oslo has more to offer, theatre, cinema, concerts, raves, house parties etc.

Here pretty much nothing is happening outside, so you’re almost forced to sit inside and make music.

(CE): The technology and distribution are simpler, has this changed the music industry?

(GR): Yes. Before a band got signed to a record label with big budgets, and you had to go to a studio and spend a lot of money to record the album. I can sit here and send a fax when I finish a track. And a freight company come and pick up a DAT, this little cassette I have here. That cassette is in Europe the next day and can be released a couple of days after that. Things move very fast now.

(CE): Can the record industry keep up with this?

(GR): The label I am on, a small label that specialises in techno music, are just interested in this genre. They have a complete understanding of what is going on. But I believe bigger labels can’t work that fast, because we’re talking big budgets, promotions etc. Everything must be planned ahead.

(CE): The Internet is the new music channel, almost like MTV, is this something you use?

(GR): No, I am thinking about getting internet, but I think it’s mostly a waste of time, to be honest.

(CE): How long time do you spend on developing an album, for instance, the record you are working on now?

(GR): I have been working a year and a half just to finish the first of the two CDs (on the double album). But I hope I will finish the second CD faster. So in a way, it’s not that fast to produce my music.

WATCH the INTERVIEW HERE.

Sirius Rush – Water

London poet Sirius Rush has teamed up with two of Paper Wave’s finest producers for a collaboration of beauty and depth.

Sirius Rush delivers his poem with hypnotic power and grace that is perfectly partnered by Popsneon & The Secret Soul Society. Each of their takes offers fresh insight and context to the meaning of the spoken words.

Popsneon gives the poetry an all out beatless UFOrb style electronic makeover. Trickling arps, sub, synth lines and pads draw you in to a weightless, psychedelic head-trip.

The Secret Soul Society brings a soulful summer jam. Birds, Rhodes, synth bass, subtle acid and some hazy style chords and shuffly drums make this perfect for those sunset moments.

 

Get it on Juno / Beatport / Traxsource / Spotify / Bandcamp

 

Memoirs from Norway’s underground dance pioneers: Andy Swatland #7

Travelling around Norway in the Spring is a fantastic experience. During my trip in 2013, we hooked up with the key movers and shakers involved in forming the country’s house and disco scenes. I was lucky enough to touch down in Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø, and many weird and beautiful places in the surrounding areas. I travelled with Ben Davis, who was directing the film we were working on, formed from interviews with the key people from the dance scene plus Paper Recording’s label artists such as Those Norwegians. We were also curious about the country, geography, and people and how they influenced each other’s creative passions. This film had a working title of ‘Northern Disco Lights – The Rise and Rise of Norwegian House Music’. During our visit, we spoke to as many of the DJs, producers, promoters and radio stations as we could and decided to publish these best bits that sum up the trip, the film and our findings.

Andy Swatland was manager of Rocky Platebar [record shop] in Tromsø, he now lives in Kristiansand, Norway with his family. 

Where did you first get into electronic music in the UK or Norway and how?
I had been travelling as an international DJ for about 3 years visiting Denmark, Germany, France, Luxembourg and my agent asked if I fancied gigging in Norway? It sounded like fun, so I agreed and ended resident DJ for a club called Jonas which was based at the SAS Royal Hotel (now the Radisson). A friend of mine ran a small record/video department in Tonofoto AS who moved to Tønsberg and recommended me for his position, I then became a resident of Tromsø.

Rocky Platebar Record bag

Rocky Platebar Record bag

Where did you buy your dance imports?
As a DJ, I was surprised how behind the Norwegian record stores were regarding new, trending music and saw a business opportunity. I got in contact with a wholesaler in Manchester called Streetbeat and started importing 12” singles. These were pretty much non-existent in Tromsø. Streetbeat had all the latest stuff such as Depeche Mode, Human League, Japan, Scritti Politti, Duran Duran and Frankie Goes to Hollywood plus the latest remixes. Some albums were released earlier in other countries (e.g. The Smiths, The Cure, Yello), so I imported these as well. I also imported ADDA DJ cases for the DJs, all of whom used to get their vinyl from me. At Rocky’s, Per was a regular customer, as was Rune.

What radio station/shows were people listening to?
Pretty much the only radio station at the time was Radio Luxembourg. I did a couple of gigs with Tony Prince & Mark Wesley from the station while in Denmark. Student radio took off and I had a two hour Saturday show for a called Rocky Radio to help promote my shop; Rocky Platebar (Records).

What genre was the most popular, disco, house or techno?
Disco was mainstream, while Techno and House were more niche genres. Per and Rune, both great guys and were pioneers in Tromsø and were on the cutting-edge of electronic dance.

Per Martinsen buying tunes in Rocky's Platebar, Tromsø

Andy Swatland’s record shop Rocky’s Platebar circa 1988, can you see Per Martinsen?

 

These excerpts were taken from a Facebook Messenger interview conducted as part of the research for the Northern Disco Lights feature documentary film.

© Paper Vision Ltd (Pete Jenkinson/Ben Davis)

Recorded on a Zoom H2.

Transcribed by Fingertips, Louie Callegari and Tongue Tied.

Memoirs from Norway’s underground dance pioneers: Hans T. Zeiner-Henriksen #5

Travelling around Norway in the Spring is a fantastic experience. During my trip in 2013, we hooked up with the key movers and shakers involved in forming the country’s house and disco scenes. I was lucky enough to touch down in Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø, and many weird and beautiful places in the surrounding areas. I travelled with Ben Davis, who was directing the film we were working on, formed from interviews with the key people from the dance scene plus Paper Recording’s label artists such as Those Norwegians. We were also curious about the country, geography, and people and how they influenced each other’s creative passions. This film had a working title of ‘Northern Disco Lights – The Rise and Rise of Norwegian House Music’. During our visit, we spoke to as many of the DJs, producers, promoters and radio stations as we could and decided to publish these best bits that sum up the trip, the film and our findings.

Hans T. Zeiner-Henriksen is Associate Professor, Department of Musicology at University of Oslo

Hi Hans, how are Norwegians regarded by the rest of the world? I think we’re seen as a safe area of the world, calm and safe, a bit outside. Our economy is very good it’s an expensive country because of our oil resources so it’s an easy place to be.

Do you think the discovery of the oil changed how Norway thinks about itself? Well yes, it’s been a long time now since the oil, we started getting oil resources and during these years we have kind of grown from being similar to other European countries to have this strong economy. Especially in the last decade, we don’t have any economic problems.

Do you think it’s affected Norwegian creativity? Yes, if you grow up in a country in a situation where you feel that things are going to go well, you don’t really have to stress too much to survive; it’s then that you can move into more creative work.

Do you think Norwegian music has certain characteristics? That depends on what you label on each music because it comes in a lot of sizes and a lot of shapes. I think if you consider Norwegian music as Norwegian folk music then it will have different instruments, the Hardanger fiddle which is local to Norway. The music that you would play on that instrument has travelled from other countries and been influenced by other cultures. Classical music was important at the end of the 19th century and so it was important for building the Norwegian identity. We said goodbye to Denmark and then Sweden and became our own nation. It was important that we had not only the music but the literature, the theatre, all the things that became an important part of Norwegian-ness. At that time, it was considered that this music was Norwegian and that it has something that is specifically Norwegian about it. A lot of us, growing up in Norway would consider classical music as very Norwegian, maybe because we had already heard it played alongside landscape footage in films. We have also heard it with Norwegian fairy tales and those connections are very strong. When you refer to Norwegian Jazz or popular music it’s difficult because there are so many influences and today you can just switch on your device and get the whole world into your living room.

Why do you think Norwegians have such a strong connection to nature? We have a strong connection to nature, especially my generation. There’s an understanding that the nature of Norway is beautiful, and you should use it, go on Sunday walks, have your vacations in the mountains in your small cabin, go skiing, of course, all Norwegian’s go skiing! I’m not sure if it’s the same with the younger generation but it’s part of our society and important to our culture.

Do you think there’s a connection between nature, landscape and electronic musical sounds? I feel there’s a connection between the landscape and the music, we have album sleeves with photos of the landscape, so the connection is understood. You can kind of connect snow, cold ice with sounds that are similar. For example, if you have an echo, you can have a warm echo. If you add a lot of reverb to it, you create a sound that is a warm echo, but you can also have a cold echo, it’s less reverb and the sound will be brighter. So there might be elements already present in the music but sometimes you have to imagine these connections into the music because if you just listen to music without any kind of understanding, knowledge or photos it’s rare that you would hear these connections. You can see the connection in artwork, titles that will have some association with nature and the landscape. And of course, music is very much about movement and then you have movement or a drive forward. There’s rhythm and you feel there’s kind of a movement. You often set this movement in some sort of landscape.

FEEL THE FJORDS: Urban club culture and Arctic scenery in the music of the Norwegian duo Röyksopp.

FEEL THE FJORDS: Urban club culture and Arctic scenery in the music of the Norwegian duo Röyksopp.

Do you think there’s a Tromsø sound that has been formed by its landscape and geography? I think there are many other influences in Tromsø’s music as well as the natural ones. Tromsø is a coastal area so there’s not permanent ice there the whole time. It’s not like Solvær, an island near the North Pole, Tromsø is more Arctic than Oslo. You have sun, snow, ice and the ‘northern lights’ and a connection to natural experiences when you live in Tromsø; to what extent that has directly influenced these musicians it’s hard to say.

Why do you think Norwegian producers are so collaborative? In Norway, you’re don’t compete too much, and in the schools, it is not very competitive; we’re busy trying to make people work together and collaborate.

How important to Norwegian music is national identity? Identity is important for everybody everywhere. We are proud of our country, nature and landscapes. I think some of the electronic dance producers felt that they were on the outside. They didn’t live in Britain but were influenced by the music and urban sounds that they heard from there. It’s a kind of collaboration between these different identities. There is a very strong sense of wanting to be culturally cool or hip in the dance music community. It was very important to be one of the hipsters or VIPs jumping the queue and getting into all the cool places in Oslo’s club culture during the nineties. This is important when you talk about identity, it is false to be hip and cool. Norwegian nature and landscape are not really that cool to Norwegians. For example, when they are portrayed in a British magazine they would say ‘Feel the Fjords’ or the ‘ultimate chillout’ linking directly to the connection with nature in Norway. In this sense, artists may feel pressure to connect with the environment or even fight against it. Maybe you can see a sense of irony in many of the photos where they present themselves in the natural environment in an ironic way?

Norwegian music seems to have a sense of mischief and humour. Why do you think that is? Maybe some of the same reasons. Mischief can be used to show that you don’t think things are that important or I’m not struggling to make a success in somewhere, this is just something I do for the fun of it. This is just a part of it, but I think the ‘cleverness’ in making good dance music is much more important. The production of tracks with good grooves and melodies are more important elements in becoming a success.

What is it about Norway that is considered ‘exotic’ to the rest of the world? I don’t think it’s that exotic to grow up here. We are on the outskirts of central Europe. Of course, there are the clichés about living in Norway, the country life, the snow, the cold winters but now we have warm houses and it’s not that awful. Norway’s ‘exotic’ label is also created abroad when (music and culture) journalists write about Norway, it’s a way to start writing about Norwegian artists. As a journalist it’s difficult to write about music, for instance, how are you going to talk about the ‘sounds’ of the music? ‘ It’s easier to start with something specific and Norway has mountains, ice, snow, dark season and Tromsø being so far north, it has all of these.

How important do you think Röyksopp’s Melody AM was for global recognition of Norwegian dance music? We must go first back to the eighties and A-ha’s breakthrough with ‘Take On Me’ and ‘Hunting High and Low’ was also very important for Norwegian artists. It showed that it was possible for Norwegians to make it in the US, England and the rest of the world. After that, quite a few Norwegians artists were successful international in places like France, Japan, the Philippines and other exotic countries. For example, in the late nineties, Röyksopp and Kings of Convenience (Röyksopp in 2001) were successful in England and globally and this inspired Norwegian artists. It’s difficult living in remote locations but when artists are successful it presents an opportunity; recently we had Ylvis, ‘The Fox (What does the Fox Say?)’. It shows that there are new ways of distribution, online or YouTube to make your start. You don’t have to travel to England or contact with a British record label to be promoted, now if you have something good you can go for it on your own. ‘Melody AM’ was released at the right time and showed that dance music can be taken into a different place. For example, the track, ‘Poor Leno’, it’s very danceable, but it also has very strong melodic themes. ‘Eple’, uses sampling techniques in a cool way, taking a tiny piece of improvisation and making something fantastic out of it. The album was very creative and did fun (mischievous) things with samples and the music. It had great grooves and strong melodic themes and brilliant vocalists such as Anneli Drecker and Erlend Øye who sing on ‘Poor Leno’ and ‘Remind Me’.

From where has Norwegian music absorbed its wide range of influences? Growing up in Norway, we only had NRK Radio which did not play very much popular music apart from the Top 10. We had a strong economy and disposable income and we’d buy our own records. My local youth club held a disco every Thursday where I learned to dance to disco music, club music that came a few years later. We bought records and spent a lot of time at each other’s houses listening to what we considered good music. Everybody has their own [formative] listening experiences with music. This is enormous to the artist and producers, every different tune they have listened to during the years growing up; that creates identity. You can explore that identity to a much deeper level. I didn’t know very much Kraftwerk before I got into club music and then I really got interested also in them, exploring their early releases. In Norway, we had the record stores and we had friends who also had records!

How is homegrown dance music regarded by the establishment now? The national broadcaster NRK or cultural politics did not support dance music back then. They play it but they generally supported Norwegian classical music composers, folk music and jazz and acoustic singer-songwriters that sang in Norwegian. While people that made pop music, sang in English or worked in the dance music scene was not supported but they did have tracks broadcast on radio. There was lesser national interest around the success of Röyksopp or Todd Terje, compared to classical music, jazz and other events that are considered culturally important for Norway.

How do you think Norwegian music has evolved from the 70s? A-ha were important, their synth-pop music was produced by programming synthesisers, but we must go into the late eighties, early nineties before something really exciting happens and it came from Tromsø. It started with Bel Canto who were Geir Jenssen, Anneli Drecker, and Nils Johansen. Geir Jenssen went on to become Biosphere.  There were a lot of artists and electronic music producers coming from Tromsø such as Rune Lindbæk and Bjørn Torske. It started the style of dance music that is famous today. When Röyksopp released ‘Melody AM’ it opened it up for other artists, then came Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas and Olle Abstract and now Todd Terje.

How influential do you think Bjørn Torske has been? Bjørn Torske has been influential when it comes to using Norwegian track and album titles. His name, Bjørn Torske, Torske means cod (the fish). So, he’s given himself an artist name which Norwegian people think is fun. I think he encouraged the use of Norwegian words in this way, for instance, why would Röyksopp call a song Eple? It’s the traditional Norwegian name for a fruit. There’s probably a link to the Bob James album (with an Apple on the cover), from the sample used in the track? The band name Röyksopp is based on a Norwegian word with a Swedish spelling.  It’s means mushroom. The ones that blow smoke if you step on them.  It’s small, white. I think it’s called a puff mushroom in the UK. There might also be an association with magic mushrooms as a drug. You step on it and something amazing comes out!

Röyksopp and Todd Terje seem to have the most success internationally. Do you see similarities in their music? It’s easy to state the differences. Todd Terje is much more instrumental and seldom uses vocals. While Röyksopp use more vocalists. Similarly, they both use strong melodic themes paired with good grooves and beats that you can follow with your body and dance.

Why do you think Norwegian electronic music has a strong affinity with disco? We grew up dancing to disco music, and maybe coincidentally, but somewhere along the line people started to explore this connection. House music has a connection to disco music, such as with the fun, the irony and outrageous clothing of disco, which also connects to being mischievous.

Can you hear Norway’s influence being reflected by international artists and producers? I hope that our influence has been great melodies and grooves that evolve.

DJs seem to be very open-minded here, why do you think that is? Because we are outsiders? If you’re in the centre of cultural activity you’re more worried about what’s right or what’s wrong. We can explore different landscapes with nobody telling us how to do it.

Tell us about Röyksopp’s ‘Poor Leno’ video? It’s very traditional Norwegian at the beginning when they fly over landscapes that are very mountainous and head towards the sea surrounded by Arctic coastal landscapes, few houses, lots of skiing. Then you have this person, Poor Leno, but it’s not a person, it’s a strange creature with hipness and cool. Leno longs to go back to the mountains and it can, of course, be understood as a link to traditional Norway.  It’s not clichéd, and it’s cool to still have connections to Norway and it’s the environment. Musically, there’s one specific part that builds up, almost like going up the mountainside. Then suddenly it’s like you have come to the top of the mountain and see the amazing view; there are definite metaphorical associations between the music and nature in the video.

Do you think Röyksopp have a strong sense of melancholia? There is an element of melancholia but if it’s specific to a Nordic sound I’m not sure. They do use minor chords which are also used in deep house productions which they might have been influenced by.

These excerpts were recorded and transcribed with some parts of the interview being used in the final print of the Northern Disco Lights feature documentary film.

© Paper Vision Ltd (Pete Jenkinson/Ben Davis)

Recorded on a Zoom H2.

Transcribed by Fingertips, Louie Callegari and Tongue Tied.

Memoirs from Norway’s underground dance pioneers: Kolbjørn Lyslo #6

Travelling around Norway in the Spring is a fantastic experience. During my trip in 2013, we hooked up with the key movers and shakers involved in forming the country’s house and disco scenes. I was lucky enough to touch down in Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø, and many weird and beautiful places in the surrounding areas. I travelled with Ben Davis, who was directing the film we were working on, formed from interviews with the key people from the dance scene plus Paper Recording’s label artists such as Those Norwegians. We were also curious about the country, geography, and people and how they influenced each other’s creative passions. This film had a working title of ‘Northern Disco Lights – The Rise and Rise of Norwegian House Music’. During our visit, we spoke to as many of the DJs, producers, promoters and radio stations as we could and decided to publish these best bits that sum up the trip, the film and our findings.

Kolbjørn Lyslo is an electronic music producer from Tromsø, Norway, was a key stakeholder in the Tromsø music community from the later eighties and worked with Aedena Cycle, Röyksopp and produces house music under the name of Doc L Junior.

Hi Kolbjørn, what was it like growing up in Tromsø? Tromsø is a small town in the far north of Norway with more culture than most other towns this isolated from the rest of Europe or the rest of the world; it feels bigger than it is. Growing up in Tromsø we had a great sense of freedom and a lot of space to explore. Culturally, Tromsø was kind of avant-garde. When I was a kid, there was a lot of punk music. We had a local radio that played a lot of new stuff that people in this country had never heard. I remember I was about 9 and an older sister of a friend of mine gave me a cassette tape with Depeche Mode on one side and The Cure on the other side. And this kind of started the whole electronic music thing for me. I was 10 when I bought my first synthesiser, it was Poly 800 Korg.

Did you look up to the previous generations? I knew them by face because Per was working in the record shop and had heard of Bjørn Torske because he was into Depeche Mode as well, we were kind of on our own. We had a covers band that played Depeche Mode music. After a while, I hooked up with Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge and Gaute Barlindhaug, we hooked up with Bjørn Torske and Per Martinsen after that. We kind of knew that if we wanted to put out music then we could just do it. They just did it so why couldn’t we? So, yes, they did make an impression on us. There was this record shop called Rocky Plate Bar and the unique thing about this place was it was run by an English guy who ended up in Tromsø as a travelling DJ. There was a lot of travelling DJ’s from the UK and Australia in the hotel circuit and club circuit. In the eighties, they had nowhere to get their records. This guy, Andy Swatland settled in Tromsø and set up a direct import link with the UK supplying all the travelling DJ’s in northern and southern Norway as he imported stuff that never made it to the regular shops. So, Tromsø became very important to the DJ circuit as Rocky Platebar was the main store for that kind of electronic music. I was just a kid then, but as I said I was into Depeche Mode and I found a lot of music that was hard to find in other Norwegian cities at that time. I bought my first house record at Rocky, the Whistle Song by Frank Knuckles. I remember it very well.

Alien Nation flyer, circa 1990

 

Did it feel like you were creating your own scene? We were very much on our own and there weren’t many people our age into the same stuff. We didn’t feel isolated, we were just into our own thing. It was just the way things were, we were into electronic music and it seemed nobody else was. I remember my first party on the 16th of May 1990, at a place called the Brygga Ungdommens Hus, (the Youth Centre) put on by Bjørn & Per. I guess it was the first dance party in Tromsø that a crowd of around 50 friends and locals attended.

When did you put out your first record? We sent out a lot of demos in 1992 and one was sent to the Planet E (Detroit, USA) record label and the owner Carl Craig called us. He wanted to put out the demo, but we didn’t manage to finish it! The year after we sent some music with Geir Jenssen, who went down to see Renaat (R&S Records owner) in Belgium. Renaat released it on Apollo Records in early 1994.

Were you involved with Brygga Radio? I did a couple of shows when I was visited Bjørn Torske as he had his own show on Brygga Radio. I listened to it all the time and it really meant a lot to me, we had nine hours of techno music every week. It was a local radio station without any strict rules on what was being played. Bjørn and Geir had the opportunity to play whatever they liked, and Bjorn had a lot of records! Geir Jenssen had a mail-order set up getting all the new things from Detroit and Europe, so I guess we were kind of lucky to have that station. It was a station for the younger generation of Tromsø and these programmes were for just 20 or 30 people; there weren’t many more people listening to it.

Doc L Junior, Bjørn Torske & Mental Overdrive circa 1990

Doc L Junior, Bjørn Torske & Mental Overdrive circa 1990

Did you feel like you were rebelling against anything? Making music in those days was a kind of rebellion. I wouldn’t compare it to the punk because the punk scene was much angrier. This was more like using electronic equipment that we could get our hands-on and do whatever we wanted with it. That was the rebellion. Not using it as it was supposed to be used, but the way we wanted to use it. The local reaction was that we weren’t really making ‘real’ music. People thought that we just pressed some buttons and the music came out all by itself. I remember we played some concerts at our school and nobody really understood what we were doing, they thought it was just some noisy stuff that they didn’t really have to bother about.

Tell us about your band, Aedena Cycle along with Svein Berge, Gaute Barlindhaug and Torbjørn Brundtland. We started when we were 13, 14 or something and we bought a drum machine and sampler together. We didn’t have a sequencer at that time, so we played the instruments and recorded them onto tape. What was special about it was that we started making music immediately. I bought a sound card for my computer and we started using sequencers then it became more technical. What happened then was that we started making our music individually. We weren’t a band anymore. It split us up in a good way because we helped each other out; we evolved individually as artists.

How did Röyksopp begin? Röyksopp started out when Torbjørn moved to Bergen, he was joined by Svein and they started producing music, making some really good tracks. I remember listening to them and they were much better than anything I had heard for ages. It sounded like something new. They then met up with Mikal at Telle Records who pressed their first single and he actively encouraged them to go and send it out to other labels. Röyksopp were unique in that they used samples in a totally different and very creative way. Everything was processed in a very precise and complicated way. It was technically advanced compared to other productions at the time. Plus, the music is brilliant, they were compositions rather than just samples over the top of beats. That was new in this genre of music.

Were you aware of the Bergen Wave music phenomenon? I was in Bergen a lot during the mid-nineties and I was in the middle of the Bergen Wave. I met Erlend (Ralph Myerz) at the time and we produced some music together. I did some work with Bjørn, Torbjørn and Svein in their studio. For me it was just something that evolved, it just happened organically as certain people met each other. Of course, Tore (Erot) made some brilliant music, also something very new at that time in Europe, his tracks sounded much more American

What’s your favourite Norwegian record? Biosphere with ‘Substrata’.

Favourite Norwegian producer? Biosphere.

What’s your favourite Norwegian club? Café Opera in Bergen because it was one of the first clubs where I could play my own music in Norway. Café Opera was a venue where you could play American, vocal, house, garage and more soulful tracks. It was the first place that it was beneficial to make this kind of music. It was an open-minded crowd, interested in all aspects of electronic music.

You were playing American house, were you the only one playing it at the time? I started playing US house tracks early on and I was pretty much the only one for a while. People played the ‘harder’ Chicago sound, but I played the Frankie Knuckles and Masters at Work productions from the early nineties. Bjørn Torske and Strangefruit started playing a lot of new tunes but they preferred the harder style. I loved the old soulful and soft, American electronic music, but I do like Detroit techno!

These excerpts were recorded and transcribed with some parts of the interview being used in the final print of the Northern Disco Lights feature documentary film.

© Paper Vision Ltd (Pete Jenkinson/Ben Davis)

Recorded on a Zoom H2.

Transcribed by Fingertips, Louie Callegari and Tongue Tied.

Memoirs from Norway’s underground dance pioneers: Vidar Hanssen #4

Travelling around Norway in the Spring is a fantastic experience. During my trip in 2013, we hooked up with the key movers and shakers involved in forming the country’s house and disco scenes. I was lucky enough to touch down in Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø, and many weird and beautiful places in the surrounding areas. I travelled with Ben Davis, who was directing the film we were working on, formed from interviews with the key people from the dance scene plus Paper Recording’s label artists such as Those Norwegians. We were also curious about the country, geography, and people and how they influenced each other’s creative passions. This film had a working title of ‘Northern Disco Lights – The Rise and Rise of Norwegian House Music’. During our visit, we spoke to as many of the DJs, producers, promoters and radio stations as we could and decided to publish these best bits that sum up the trip, the film and our findings.

Vidar Hanssen was, and still is a key stakeholder in the creative industries of Tromsø, Norway since 1989. He runs the Beatservice record label which has just passed its 200th release from mostly Tromsø based producers and artists.

Hi Vidar, A lot of artists and producers from Tromsø seem to have a mischievous sense of humour which is apparent in the music, for example, Röyksopp, Bjørn Torske, Rune Lindbæk, why do you think that is? The first generation of Tromsø artists was more mysterious and into techno using English track titles; the second generation including Ole Johan Mjøs, Bjørn Torske, Rune Lindbæk were all close friends who like having a laugh. Before they started making records, they played gigs in town all the time. Bjørn Torske (Ismistik) and Drum Island showed a lot of their sense of humour with the strange track titles and they used this humour in their records. I think the Oslo scene was also influenced, I saw a Full Pupp (label) compilation, and some of the track titles were very strange, Norwegian sounding track titles. I think this makes it interesting for the international audience abroad when they have these titles and they don’t know what it’s all about because it’s Norwegian and they don’t understand it, but the tracks are cool. The difference between growing up in Tromsø and Oslo was that they had record shops, venues and the national media was based there but in Tromsø, we didn’t have that focus on the Norwegian scene, so we just travelled directly abroad.

How did you all meet? There was only one high school or college (three years from 16 to 18) called Kongsbakken where Kolbjørn Lyslo, Gaute Barlindhaug, Torbjørn and Svein Berge, Bjørn Torske went but after me. However, Per, Geir, Rune, Bjørn and I all went to the same primary school. We were from working-class families, none of our parents was in the creative or performance industries.

When did you first hear about Bjørn Torske? Bjørn Torske was one of the people I knew that was listening to my radio show because he had been in contact and bought some of the records. When we were ordering stuff from England, sometimes you would order two copies and forget you already had an extra one so he got some of those records from me. I knew Bjørn before he was started to make music as also DJed on Brygga Radio along with Rune Lindbæk, so I knew him from those days. I started following him when he made his more techno music under the Ismistik alias.

Vidar Hanssen's Vinyl Collection

What was Brygga Radio like? We had four or five local radio stations in Tromsø, and Brygga Radio was for the more alternative, anarchic styles of music. A lot of guys had shows on Brygga from the first wave of Tromsø music producers like Per Martinsen and then from the second wave with people such as Rune Lindbæk.

How did the Norwegian disco compilations come about?
In the beginning, there was a lot of techno from the Tromsø artists, then we had this period where there was some techno but also some electronic and breakbeat stuff. As we approached the year 2000, people were starting to release a lot of house music from international labels, some on their own labels and some one-off stuff that they made themselves. Also, in this period we had a very small, tiny club in Tromsø called Yazz’n which was the start of the club scene that you now see in Tromsø. The club nights mostly played funk and house music. I DJed there a few times and the first Beatservice compilation, ‘Prima Norsk’ was my DJ set at the time. My thoughts were that the music was very cool and needed to reach a larger audience.

Do you think disco has had an influence on Norwegian dance music? When you DJ with house music those records have disco elements, but the pure disco scene is more of an Oslo thing. You have Bjørn Torske who has done some cool disco stuff. There are not many disco artists in Tromsø. When Bjørn made his disco records he was living in Bergen.

Did the ‘Bergen Wave’ make a difference to your record label Beatservice with the increasing international attention focused on Norwegian music?
Beatservice has always been an underground label and the successes have been more by accident than design. For example, the first Xploding Plastix album has been the label’s best-selling album and my biggest success has come with a pop style, a guitar-driven band called Flunk.

Vidar Hanssen making his Beatservice Radio

Vidar Hanssen making his Beatservice Radio

Do you think Norwegian electronic music has certain characteristics?
I think it’s spacy and has a bit of playfulness. You have a lot of sub-genres here, there are also some very good drum and bass players in Norway. Now you have a new generation of electronic artists, Cashmere Cat, for example, he is a very young guy with a lot of musical skills.

What’s your favourite ever Norwegian club?
My favourite club must be the original Yazz’n because it was so intimate and small, it’s legendary but nowadays I really like two clubs in Tromsø called Circa and Verte (VT – Verdensteatret). In Oslo, I have had some memorable evenings at Blå.

Who is your favourite Norwegian producer?
It is very difficult to pick one Norwegian producer. It switches from time to time. Nowadays I like Lindstrøm very much. I have a complete Lindstrom compilation on my car stereo. I like everything he has done, but also the Geir Jenssen’s Biosphere is classic.

Beatservice & Biosphere event 1995

Vidar Hanssen promotes an event with Biosphere in April-1995

What is your favourite ever Norwegian track?
My favourite Norwegian tracks are ‘I Feel Space’ by Lindstrøm, ‘Novelty Waves’ by Biosphere and ‘Jeg Vil Være Søppelmann’ by Bjørn Torske.

These excerpts were recorded and transcribed with some parts of the interview being used in the final print of the Northern Disco Lights feature documentary film.

© Paper Vision Ltd (Pete Jenkinson/Ben Davis)

Recorded on a Zoom H2.

Transcribed by Fingertips, Louie Callegari and Tongue Tied.

Memoirs from Norway’s underground dance pioneers: Rune Lindbæk #3

Travelling around Norway in the Spring is a fantastic experience. During my trip in 2013, we hooked up with the key movers and shakers involved in forming the country’s house and disco scenes. I was lucky enough to touch down in Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø, and many weird and beautiful places in the surrounding areas. I travelled with Ben Davis, who was directing the film we were working on, formed from interviews with the key people from the dance scene plus Paper Recording’s label artists such as Those Norwegians. We were also curious about the country, geography, and people and how they influenced each other’s creative passions. This film had a working title of ‘Northern Disco Lights – The Rise and Rise of Norwegian House Music’. During our visit, we spoke to as many of the DJs, producers, promoters and radio stations as we could and decided to publish these best bits that sum up the trip, the film and our findings.

Rune Lindbæk was a key participant in the Tromsø music community in the late eighties and nineties who has worked with Röyksopp, Those Norwegians and is a successful international DJ.

What was it like growing up in Tromsø in the seventies? Growing up in Tromsø in the seventies was very safe. Society was changing because in 1970 when I was born, Norway started to extract oil and gas from the sea, and it became a solid foundation from which our society could grow. Geographically, it is an outpost to the Arctic. But it is the most northerly university town in the world and our influences come from all over the world. It’s a very international city with so much going on, which you just wouldn’t expect from a city with a population of only 70,000.

What music were you listening to growing up? The big influence for me was Boney M’s ‘Night Flight to Venus’ album and ABBA my mum liked to listen to disco music. A friend’s big brother had ‘Man Machine’ by Kraftwerk and it changed my life completely. I thought it was really cool and very scary. I thought Kraftwerk were some of the scariest things I’d ever heard, but it was addictive. At the time, in Norway, there were no rhythms, it wasn’t like living in the Bronx [New York, US] hearing beats and rhythms all around you. The only music we heard was played on our national radio station which would have been something like the Carpenters, and other ‘nice’ music. I do really like the Carpenters because it reminds me of those days but there were certainly no rhythms in Norway! I started checking out AM Radio and built an AM receiver in my bedroom that had a 20-metre cable running out of my window to our neighbour’s tree, just to try and listen to music from Radio Luxembourg. Nowadays you can have all the songs in the world in seconds.

When did you start hearing [rhythmic] dance music? Well, when my mum came home with cassettes of disco compilations like labels like K-Tel [from the UK], and Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel, which Danish next-door neighbour came home back from Denmark with one day, I absolutely loved it. My mum had a very bad quality turntable and I tried to scratch with the Grandmaster Flash record to mess around with the bass and the treble and really enjoyed it. Whenever a similar track sneaked into our charts, there was that rhythm again, I loved it. When I heard ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order, it was the coolest thing I’ve heard in my life.

Club Volcano flyer, Tromsø 1995

Club Volcano flyer, Tromsø 1995

How did the Norwegian dance music scene start developing? The first thing I heard about a synthesiser which I thought was the ‘coolest thing’, but I didn’t know anyone that had it, was that Geir Jenssen’s Biosphere’s brother, who was in my class at school, had several of them at his home. They lived very close by, but I didn’t know him because he was older, but I do remember walking past his house and thinking, ‘he has synthesisers’. Bel Canto went to Ghent to record music and they returned having recorded an album that was really inspired us. Per Martinsen [Mental Overdrive], travelled to London to the first Mutant Waste Company parties which were one of the few places that played ‘Chicago’ dance music. There was a really influential record store in Tromsø called Rocky Plate Bar run by Andy Swatland who was importing music once or twice a week. A lot of DJs in Norway were buying vinyl from that shop because days or weeks after it has been released in America or England you could find it in Rocky. So lots of us were meeting in the import section of Rocky because you could find the latest international music on vinyl; Per Martinsen [Mental Overdrive] worked in that shop, it was very important to us. In the early nineties, I remember Biosphere was in The Face magazine and we were like, wow! We started to get DJs and producers like the Idjut boys and Harvey. People that inspired us were coming here. We were digging their stuff, and they were digging our stuff and that was really exciting, it felt like a recognition of what we were doing musically in Tromsø.

Did you play music on the Radio? We had Brygga Radio which allowed us to play everything we bought live on the air. It was an independent local radio station it wasn’t a national radio and we would just play Detroit techno at peak times, at breakfast or at drive time in the afternoon because we were selecting the music. There was also Beatservice radio run by an old friend called Vidar Hanssen that I engineered for sometimes. Beatservice used to be on Brygga Radio but moved to the local Student radio. At that time Beatservice was probably more of a synthesiser programme for synthesiser music but it overlapped with Brygga musically, it was fantastic, Beatservice played great music.

Tell us about the Drum Island and Those Norwegians projects? You could say that Tromsø actually means Drum Island. I like to use real names and word in tracks, and it has some relevance to myself because I’m from Tromsø. I could tell you. The musical project came from my record label also called Drum Island. There was an excellent record label in Ghent, Belgium called R&S Records who we were contacting and Renaat who owned the label loved my Drum Island label name and wanted to get involved, and we thought fair enough, why not! Those Norwegians started because we were listening to a range of music like the early Idjut Boys. UK productions that merged house with disco and we were really influenced by the way they used Jamaican [reggae] dub effects on disco; Those Norwegians made our own version of that. We were called Those Norwegians because there wasn’t any other Norwegians in that scene and it just stuck; I guess we were poking fun at ourselves because the name ‘Those Norwegians’ was actually really  ‘uncool’ at the time and we liked that.

Rune Lindbæk clapperboard, Tromsø 2013

Tell us about your record-buying trips to London. In the early nineties, we would save up money to go and buy records in the UK. Mostly London but also one of my friend’s parents had moved to Manchester, so I used to fly to Manchester and spend all my money at Piccadilly Records, which is still open and a great record shop. I would then fly to London to meet Bjørn [Torske] and return home. I was so skint that my choices were to buy the last Carl Craig 12″ in stock and not eat, just eat soup or not buy it and enjoy my time in the cafes and restaurants of London. I chose to buy the record!  Bjørn and I would meet up to go record shopping over a couple of days before returning home together to Norway.  We tried to get as many records as we could get from London and Manchester England and bring them home to Tromsø for our radio shows. We also brought back from London cassette recordings of pirate radio shows which were then copied and shared around everyone in Tromsø. If you listen to the first Biosphere album ‘Microgravity’, it’s actually breakbeats from those tapes. Biosphere had a radio show on Sunday nights and this imported music must have clicked with him because if you listen to his radio show you can actually hear elements of ‘Microgravity’. At around the same time parts of Tromsø got satellite television and the daytime sci-fi programmes; all the sounds on this album are sounds I recognise from those shows!

What was Bjørn Torske’s role in the development of Norwegian dance music? Bjørn was a massive part of the scene, his thing was to fuse his sound with dub and disco. Also, he was very important in the development and growth of the scene because he was among the first of us to move from Tromsø to Bergen. I didn’t really feel the Bergen Wave, it was more a case of just Bjørn and old friend Erot who were making music. The ‘Bergen Wave’ name was just a typical UK way of reporting and making linking it to a specific geographical area.  It wasn’t like Bergen this and Oslo this, Bjorn was from here, Tore [Erot] and Annie were from here and staying at mine. Tore & I used to hang out when I used to live in Oslo, as a producer and inspiration he was very important for Norwegians. His productions have a bit of quirkiness in them and they still work on the [dance] floor when I use them as a DJ.

What makes the clubbing experience so special? When I DJed in Oslo, Skansen was a fantastic, very hedonistic club, along with other great places in Oslo like with Jazid, Head-On and Blå. It had a great sound system for a converted public toilet that had been closed for ages. It was tiny and we didn’t need many people to create an atmosphere, and it had tonnes of atmosphere! The best clubs in Norway though have probably been in Oslo, it’s the smaller sized clubs that get ‘packed out’ as you don’t need many people or really pumping [hard] music to get the dancefloor going. You just need a few heads and a great atmosphere, and there are plenty of ‘weirdos’ who like to dance in Oslo! The clubs have definitely been a factor in shaping the music we make as you don’t need to reach thousands of people in the club. If your music reaches the right people, the experience inspires you. If this were a place where you needed mass appeal, big [superclubs] clubs with hard sounds then our music would definitely have sounded different. This was a smaller version of Berlin with little basements or jazz clubs, not made for a lot of people, but for the right people. The nights at the legendary Nomaden in Oslo were also very important to try out new music on the crowd. It’s one of the few places in the world where you could play this [specific] kind of music and the dancefloor would scream, it’s one of the best clubs that has ever existed.

Those Norwegians - Kaminsky Park

Those Norwegians – Kaminsky Park album artwork

Why do you think Norwegian music is influenced by such a wide range of music? I think the collective influences from the people here are one of the main reasons, a lot of people who produce electronic dance music in Norway have large record collections. There are synthesiser guys, dub guys, Kraut guys and disco that came before us and now we can just make our own ‘local’ version of it with a ‘Norwegian twist’ because we have the technology, they didn’t. We gained confidence from our record releases which did ok amongst the people we consider it important to reach. This bred confidence between us. Norwegians were producing some great records; you’d play them out and they worked on the radio and in clubs and the locals really liked it. They didn’t realise that it was Norwegian music. Some of the biggest records I’ve played in my 30 years of DJing have been made in Norway.

Could you tell us about Frode Holm’s role in the Norwegian scene? There didn’t appear to be many attempts at making disco in Norway and we had all been trying to find traces of proper disco [being produced in Norway], then we found Frode Holm who was running a record shop in our main hangout in Oslo. His best track ‘Fotspor’ from his 1981 album ‘Holme CPU’ has fantastic production, great vocals and lyrics which tell a story about going out into the world and marking your mark. There might not be much going on in your local area, so you can go to LA, New York or San Francisco in North America. I can relate to these lyrics because in Tromsø until we started doing parties, I really wanted to be somewhere else.  I can really relate to the feeling that you don’t want to be stuck in the same place forever. Probably why I ended up in Oslo of course, it’s such a fantastic city. Frode’s music was influenced by really pure disco, jazz-funk and soul but with a Norwegian lyric which made for an odd record that was so important in Norwegian musical history. So Frode was a pioneer here in Oslo, of a generation born twenty years before us but doing what we are doing now, back then.

When did you start DJing internationally? My first gig abroad was in North Yorkshire, in 1993, when I was studying journalism at Darlington College in the North East of England. There was a record shop in Darlington where I met Moonboots who was putting out twelve inches. I had heard a rumour about this record shop in a derelict area of town behind some garages, as I walked past, I heard a bass drum and went through a door. I thought I’d arrived in heaven. It was packed with people, shrink-wrapped American imports, even back then! From 1998 I was a bi-monthly resident at Plastic People in London. I started going to London on the last British Airways plane on a Saturday afternoon and flew back on the first plane Sunday morning. After that, we discovered ‘Sunday Best’ which was a key club event in the timeline of disco and Balearic music, and it became a home from home for me. Around 2000, I started DJing in Easter Europe more and you think that Eastern Europe, just after the Berlin Wall came down that it would be dull and grey. Wow, they like to party. I have DJed at so many gigs and they’ve been fantastic. My style of DJing is not for every club, so the number of places I can play is limited but I DJ once a month somewhere in Europe and have a great time. I perform in clubs that want to hear good music, I put in ethnic elements, dub it up and have a bit of fun, try not to be so serious. Dance music resides in a strange world but I’m really happy to be a part of it.

These excerpts were recorded and transcribed with some parts of the interview being used in the final print of the Northern Disco Lights feature documentary film.

© Paper Vision Ltd (Pete Jenkinson/Ben Davis)

Recorded on a Zoom H2.

Transcribed by Fingertips, Louie Callegari and Tongue Tied.