Memoirs from Norway’s underground dance pioneers: Per Martinsen #1

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.

Per Martinsen is a sonic artist, electronic music producer [Mental Overdrive], DJ and performer from Tromsø, Norway; he’s also one half of Frost with his partner Aggie Peterson.

Hi Per, tell us what it was like growing up in Tromsø. Tromsø geographically is on the outside. It’s the biggest town this far north if you look down the planet from the top. A lot of cultures are based around the survival needs of living here, so when we grew up this shaped our culture, we were told: “This is where we’re from and this is what we do”. When technology-based means of communication and creativity such as the internet came into our lives they were organically integrated into our culture. I grew up in the 1970s and moved away in my late teens, before the internet and even before Norway began fully using the English language so communication with the world was difficult but growing up here was perfect because we could just sit up here and monitor the world. We could sit here and watch what the humans were up to in other parts of the world. We ordered fanzines and music from the UK and Europe and the UK and we had little import sharing ‘factories’ where one of us would order a record, we’d copy it onto cassette and distribute it around Tromsø. We imported a lot of youth cultures such as post-punk, early German electronic experimental music, Freaks from the West Coast of the US and even bands like The Residents performed in Tromsø in the nineteen-eighties. Here we were, sitting on top of the world looking out, trying to find things we thought interesting going on down there, where the other people were. We collected everything in to a big heap that we shared amongst ourselves. We would import mail order records, fanzines and cassette tapes and copy the music onto tape to share and lend each other the literature to read.

Did you all go to the same school or college in Tromsø back in the day?
Some of us lived across the bridge, on the mainland in Tromsdalen (Geir, Bjørn, Rune, myself), but due to age difference, I only knew Geir from outside school and didn’t meet the others until after finishing school. Kolbjørn, Aggie and the Royksopp boys grew up on the Tromsø island and went to a different school.

Was there Norwegian culture that interested you or was it all from abroad? Most of it was from abroad and ultimately Norwegian dance culture started emerging, but when you are situated in Tromsø you are three to four hours’ drive from the nearest town, 2,000km from Oslo. It’s all viewed as just the ‘other place’, there was a lot of relevant parties and people in Oslo and other towns that I didn’t know anything about until over twenty years later. It was more difficult to get information from around Norway than it was to find out what was going on in Berlin and London!

Do you think Tromsø’s isolated geographical isolation influenced the music that you began to make? I think when I grew up here eclectic was the best way of describing the music production we made because we didn’t know what was right or wrong [there were no parameters]. The first time I met somebody who was into ‘drum & bass’ and not ‘jungle’, I was like “Oh, wow you do exist”! People are perhaps more fragmented in larger cultures because you have to choose your ‘place’ or ‘position’ in that scene or culture, but when we grew up we had total freedom because we could just sample everything, put it into one big cauldron and start mashing it up. I heard music through teenagers when I was pretty small and the radio [National radio] didn’t play any exciting or cutting edge music but there was one programme I listened to on NRK P1 with Harald Are Lund, he played interesting music. The British music papers were very much in demand up here as we tried to follow what was going on in the underground music scenes around the world. The crowd I grew up with really wanted to explore different soundscapes and scenes and were very curious about all forms of alternative music. There was a guy called Jon Strøm (who was a couple of years older than me) who used to invite people like me and Geir Jenssen around his house on Fridays to drink beer and listen to the mail-order ‘catch’ of the week. It would be a very eclectic mix of punk, post-punk and pop and he would introduce us to records by Crass, Dead Kennedys along with ABC and Chic. I remember hearing “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” by Indeep and “Warm Leatherette” by The Normal for the first time at Jon Strøm’s. He ordered some of his records from Rhythm Records on Portobello Rd in London but not 100% sure. We ended up having eclectic influences such as electronic, punk, pop or experimental music, the music just had to have something special.

Doepfer A-120 Analogue Modular Synth in Per's Studio

Doepfer A-120 Analogue Modular Synth in Per’s Studio

Tromsø and Norwegian electronic music seem to have this otherworldliness. Do you think it reflects Norwegian identity? It’s a strange question for me to answer because if the music we make has something special like a local flavour or oddness then it’s a question that should be asked of someone outside of Tromsø or Norway. It’s hard to analyse your own or my [connected] contemporaries’ music. You do what you do, and you put it out there and see what reflects other people’s opinions. I don’t need to be shaped by what surrounds me and that is the freedom you get growing up in Tromsø, we could sit here and sample every kind of alternative or strange music from any global subculture and spit back our version; we didn’t have to fit in anywhere. If I grew up in a bigger city where there was a [specific] sound I would [potentially] start trying to fit into that [city’s] ‘sound’ and the creative freedom of not having to respond to your surroundings is great. Dance music is such social music, it is a language and you can communicate something with it. It needs to work on some level but as long as it makes you move, or appeals to you at a basic level then you can put as much of yourself into it as you want; that is the freedom that comes from the Tromsø scene. You don’t answer to anyone. You just make what you want to make.

Tell us about Geir Jenssen’s role in the Tromsø music community. Geir and I met when I was 11 years old and he was three or four years older than me. We shared a love of the great outdoors and met in a mountain cabin and it was the first time I’d heard Kraftwerk’s ‘Man Machine’ on a portable cassette deck. Geir was a dedicated music fan who got the best stuff and really followed what was happening, and he told me one day, “I’m going to buy a synthesiser and start making music”. We already played in bands, but he started making electronic music and it was brilliant. I don’t remember the year, but it was when bands started the transition from rock into electronic bands; I already owned drum machines and we started to play around with them, and managed to get hold of some synths: Korgs, MS10s, MS20s, begged and borrowed until we got what we needed and then we started making tapes. I even used a cassette deck as a sampler using rewind techniques. We had a great time experimenting (and struggling) to make our own sound.

Northern Disco Lights 2017 screening at TIFF (Tromsø INternational Film Festival)

Northern Disco Lights 2017 screening at TIFF (Tromsø International Film Festival)

How important was his success with Bel Canto on your developing career and scene? We were all making music and performing together but they went off to Belgium, and I went to the UK around the same time. We always met up when we returned to Norway to share experiences and play each other’s music. Many of us [Tromsø artists] started releasing records around 1987-88 and the fact that they were released on international labels gave us all confidence. if you look at the punk scene in Tromsø there are only two or three single releases, but if you look at the punk scene in Oslo in the late 1970s or even Trondheim, there’s tens or hundreds of bands releasing singles. We were up in the Arctic and just to get somebody to transport a pressing of 500 seven inch vinyl up to Tromsø would be very expensive and could ruin you. Also, when they arrived, they would just sit in your basement and it was really hard to get them back out into the world because we were so far away [geographically] in Tromsø.

How did you start producing music and was it just for yourself and friends? I started making noise when I was a kid. I was banging and drumming on anything, I would find and destroy my mother’s cookie jars. I just needed [to release my] energy and make [turn] it into sound. We started bands when I was about 13-14 years old. Punk had just happened, but I liked the aesthetics and the DIY ethic of the punk movement rather than the music. I didn’t really enjoy the music but after in the post-punk era was a brilliant time to kind of be interested in music. Those were the formative years and shaping of my musical tastes. All the bands I was listening to started using drum machines and I tried to play like a drum machine. Bands that influenced us were mainly UK based such as Joy Division and then New Order and they began getting influenced by American dance music. I had this record from a Canadian duo, I didn’t enjoy the music very much, but they looked like New Romantics sitting at a coffee table and on this table was this ‘crazy’ machine. I was like, “What the fuck is that machine?” as it just looked awesome. I went to the local music shop and took the album to ask what it was? and they said, “a Roland”. This was maybe in ‘83 or ’82 and they telephoned Roland, and it was a TR808 drum machine. I was like I want one of those. I realised that this was the same machine being used by Arthur Baker productions and a lot of the records I was listening to. I worked for the whole summer in between school and spent all my money on a TR808. That was my first machine. It was perfect and it did the trick. I don’t have it anymore, but I still use its sounds. We were really opposed to everything around us and we tried really hard, perhaps too hard to create our own little space. We were trying to do something different but at the same time absorbing lots of brilliant influences coming from elsewhere. We tried to copy interesting music and when we were successful at the copying it turned out a bit boring but when we were unsuccessful it turned out very interesting.

What did your parent’s generation think of this? The established traditional musicians and crowds in Tromsø already hated the punk scene when suddenly these people came on stage to perform without traditional instruments they were outraged. The only way to be a rebel was to do something that had never been done in Tromsø before. Mine and Geir and I guess Runes parents were working class, but I believe Bjørn’s parents were academics connected to the University. I don’t think any of us came from families involved in creative, art, performance industries.

When & why did you go to England? I actually left Tromsø for Oslo in the mid-1980s but I didn’t find much going on, so I returned to Tromsø and worked in a record shop and then travelled to the UK by chance really. I just got on a train and ended up in Copenhagen, met a friend and we moved around Europe together until ending in London. Luckily, I met some people who were squatting in Hackney and suddenly I had a room for a few months. After that, I had an opportunity to work in a recording studio in Brixton called Cold Storage Studios where a few of the bands that I listened to were based.

What was the London dance music scene like when you were in the UK? The first Detroit Techno and Chicago House cassette tapes started circulating just before Christmas in 1987 in Hackney and during the winter of ’88 I really got into it. I was already into electronically produced music but when I heard ‘Detroit Techno’ for the first time I immediately understood that need to be investigated! One of my friends came over to London in the early summer of ’88 and was really eager to hear what was going on and I was willing to share all of my new music. I remember returning to Norway for Christmas that year and meeting up with Nils Johansen from Bel Canto as he was on Christmas holiday from Belgium. He asked me what kind of music I was working on and I explained there was a lot of techno and house music in London and he said: “What’s that?”. I didn’t have any music with me but he had a synth rig set up in his room, so we went back and I played him some of the sounds and beats and a few months later in London I had a phone call in the studio from Mark Hollander who owned Belgium’s Crammed Discs label and they had started a new dance subsidiary called SSR. He said, “I really like the demos that you made that Nils played me. Can you come over to Belgium and finish them?” I was really surprised as they were just demos but, of course, I went to Belgium to work on the tracks.

Can you remember the first time Bjørn and Rune came over to see you in London? I took Bjørn [Torske] and Rune [Lindbæk] record shopping in Soho and they were so excited, we had a real laugh. I think Bjørn was the most enthusiastic person I had ever met in my life. He was so genuine about his interest in music that it was really fascinating. It was like wow!

When did you return to Tromsø from Belgium? I went back regularly to see my family as I have two younger brothers who were teenagers at that time, and I had lots of friends there still. We had some parties and I got to know Bjørn Torske and other people younger than me such a Kolbjørn Lyslo who had been buying records off me in the record store a few years earlier. There were a lot of young people making brilliant music.

Bjørn Torske & Per Martinsen in the Yorkshire 2016

Bjørn Torske & Per Martinsen in the Yorkshire 2016

Where do you think they found their creativity and inspiration? They were probably just geeks into synthesisers and electronic music because already when I was at the record shop [Rocky Plate bar from ’85-’86] there were always people creeping out of the woodwork asking for weird, challenging music that I didn’t know anyone but myself had heard of. They probably got their hands on information and music culture the same way as me before the internet took over the job of providing information.

Can you tell us about the first parties you put on in Tromsø? The first club playing house music was when Bjørn & I decided to put on a rave. It was very DIY. We combined our record collections, made all the décor and rented a sound system. I was into hobby electronics since I was a kid and managed to build two strobes and then we were given permission to hold it at the Brygga Ungdommens Hus (Youth Centre). We designed and photocopied flyers and everything was set, it looked fantastic and we had our rave, me and Bjørn. He was playing, I was dancing and then he went on the decks and I went on the decks and he danced. That was the first house club in Tromsø, Norway. The classic two-man party. After that, I was asked to DJ at a mainstream disco in Tromsø a Saturday night. There were a lot of US marines based here from Chicago and I think they were quite used to house music by 1988. The club was packed and completely ‘going off’, kind of weird. All these people were asking me, “Where the hell did you get this music?”, “How can this be? We’re in the Arctic” and “How can this happen?”. We had our moments where we were successful in bringing these sounds to the locals here as well; not just exporting them.

Was there a moment where you would say there’s a Tromsø scene? There was definitely a ‘bedroom movement’ going on because when I returned home one time, a handful of the younger producers came to our studio to produce their recordings. Some of these sessions were sent to SSR in Belgium and released as the two T.O.S. [#1 & #2] EPs and these were the first releases by Bjørn Torske, Ole Johan Mjøs and Per Syamese.

Per MArtinsen breaks the charts

Per Martinsen’s Mental Overdrive smash the national charts in Oct 1995

Can you remember what happened around the emergence of Tellé Records in Bergen? Bjørn ended up moving to Bergen after we had played at a party there and I would visit all the time to this great club called Café Opera. It was at Café Opera that he introduced me to this really young guy. I had my portable DAT player (a very important piece of kit then) and this guy (who introduced himself as Tore) gave me a DAT, I listened to this amazing music. That was Erot, Tore’s first productions. Once we had both heard it, we immediately knew that this music had to be heard and we ended up releasing two of the tracks. The label was called Footnotes, Tore did the artwork and the tracks were called Milk Chocolate Swing and Haribo. Footnotes only had one release which was Tore’s first production. That was my first experience of the emerging Bergen scene, which blew up in the international media with the help of Mikal’s Tellé Records that released all these amazing 7″ singles with brilliant music. The main element of the Bergen sound of the ‘90 was pop. It was brilliantly crafted alternative pop music. It was very eclectic with different producers such as Erlend (Ralph Myerz) and the Kings of Convenience that had a Simon and Garfunkel sound, it was very creative and artistic. These original energies come and a scene explodes and everybody is inspired and then it dies out and something else comes along and takes over but it was an amazing couple of years. The two main musical exports from Norway have been Black Metal and electronic music which reflect a certain level of international success when Norwegians look at themselves in the mirror, and this inspires others. There were so many female electronic pop artists from Norway, it was amazing; we’re such a small population but have a lot of people working in the music industry.

When did you first become aware of Röyksopp? I was playing at the festival here in the 90s and when I was setting up my gear four young lads came up and said, “Hi, we’re playing the support slot for you,” and they called themselves Aedena Cycle. That was Torbjørn [Brundtland] and Svein [Berge] from Röyksopp plus Gaute Barlindhaug and Kolbjørn Lyslo. That was their band and that’s maybe the first time that I met these guys, they were younger than Bjørn’s generation and they were the next generation of youngsters breaking on to the music-making scene. Tromsø had all these young, very enthusiastic people and it was really refreshing meeting them all. All the time there were ‘new faces’ that turned up with new music for me to listen to, and they were always driven by this mad energy. I loved it. You really want to listen to music made by people like that. Most people say, “Listen to this,” and you’ll probably listen to it eventually but if they are right in your face and the sun was coming out in the middle of the dark season you know it’s going to be refreshing. That was my first, very positive impression of Röyksopp. Torbjørn [Brundtland] moved to Oslo to work with Bel Canto on one of their later studio albums. They were in the next-door studio, so we spent some time together listening to each other’s music. Then he started playing me a lot of his own music and it was fantastic; really, good. This was pre-Röyksopp and there was probably some of the tracks that were released on the Those Norwegians album [on Paper Recordings], but it was via Torbjørn’s cassette and DAT, tapes that I heard what was going on with that crowd.

Has dance music changed your life? Yes, in a big way because I hated disco when I was growing up, I hated dancing. I had decided that I was never going to dance in my life but then, I heard quality dance music and some proper disco not just the pop charts stuff, so yeah it changed me a lot. It’s had a massive impact on my life. I think electronic producers in Norway have brought their own character to the sound. Every city or locality will have its own sound or technique that is inspiring to others, this new disco [Nu-Disco] production style established itself globally but I would love to see more challenging productions because I need more edge, more noise. I’m just an angry old man!

Insomnia Festival 2003

Insomnia Festival 2003 – Frost and Per Martinsen

How important is the Norwegian identity to your music? It’s strange because these days I probably have more in common with you than with my next-door neighbour because we’ve been interested in the same kind of culture and music. On one level the common references are closer than somebody you share a country with. On the other hand, you can’t go anywhere in the world and not bring ‘yourself’ with you. I’m always going to be Norwegian. I’m always going to be Northern Norwegian because I’m very connected to this landscape, and I really like rubbish weather. If it’s too hot I stop functioning and I have all these things built into my genes growing up here; I’m shaped by the people and environment here, it’s important that I’m Norwegian.

When did that turn into something that you thought good enough to release and share with the world? The first was a cassette release in 1984. It was Geir’s project under the artist name of E-Man and released on a cassette label based in Oslo called Likvidér; I worked with him on a couple of tracks that ended up on that tape. Geir released quite a few tapes at the time as he had invested in duplicating machines so that he could copy cassette tapes, photocopy the artwork and sell them via his mail-order [Biophon]. There were two punk bands in Tromsø that released seven inches but the cost of vinyl manufacture and distribution from so far north in Tromsø was prohibitive, so people saw cassettes as an opportunity to get their music out there. There was a lot of brilliant cassette releases from local bands in the 1980s that never saw the light of day.

Per MArtinsen breaks the charts

Per Martinsen’s Mental Overdrive smash the national charts in Oct 1995

How did you get swept up in the acid house movement? I ended up in London, England in 1987. Ever curious and a big fan of ‘industrial’ electronic music, a lot of these bands performed live in London so I just ended up just going there for gigs and hang out; I ended up living in a Hackney squat for most of ’87 and ’88. I hadn’t consciously set out to end up in this situation, but I was lucky because everything that was happening then in London during that period was so exciting.  I remember the first time I heard Chicago Acid and Detroit Techno music on a cassette tape given to me by a guy who was also squatting nearby in Hackney. He was called Mark Van den Berg, [Mark Luvdup] and that first tape was shared around everybody; we then started going to parties and warehouse clubs. I was ecstatic when I heard this music for the first time because in Tromsø the reaction to my productions was generally “Yes. Love the drum machine and bass lines and stuff but where’s the song?” I didn’t want them to be songs. I wondered whether there was a place for this music in the world, was it just for myself only? But, on hearing electronic dance music a couple of years later that was just ‘instrumentals/dubs’, and it was a revelation. It was like okay there is a space for this kind of music in the world and it’s in the clubs. Geir was with me in the UK at that time and we ended up working as tape-op assistants in a Brixton based studio, and since I had some of the gear that they needed in the studio we did kind of a swap, giving me access to the studio at night time, I’d help out during the day and sleep under the manager’s desk on the floor when needed!

What was your first commercial release? My first release was on the Belgian label SSR. The track was produced by Geir & me and was called ‘In Your System’.  When I was working in the UK, Geir and his band Bel Canto frequently travelled to Belgium to record and release music on Crammed Discs. I went home to Tromsø at Christmas 1987 and I explained about this new house and techno music to a good friend of mine, Nils Johansen who played in Bel Canto. I struggled to explain so I said, “Okay switch on your rig and I’ll show you,” and made some quick examples of the music I was currently working on right there and then. Nils played these demos to the Crammed Discs label owner Mark Hollander who invited me to Belgium to finish the tracks. The tracks were released on a new dance music subsidiary they were setting up called SSR (short for ‘Sampler & Sans Reproche’) and then later on R&S records. Geir started working on his Bleep album just before Biosphere in Belgium and I did a project with Samy Birnbach, [DJ Morpheus] who created the great Freezone compilation series for SSR/Crammed Discs. We did a track called ‘Hallucination Generation’ as the Gruesome Twosome that totally blew up in the US and they wanted us to follow it up but I had already moved on and started returning to Tromsø to work on new projects.

When you returned to Tromsø how were Bjørn and Rune begin fitting in with the community. I’m a bit older than them and there was a bunch of eager guys hanging around my younger brother who was six years younger than me but the same age as Bjørn and Rune who knew him. When I came back with all this new music which was emanating from our house, they got really into it. They began borrowing records, especially Bjørn for his radio show on Brygga. We produced some tracks together for Mark Hollander after Geir [Jenssen] had played some of the demo music they’d produced to him. Bjørn, and I think Rune Lindbæk or Ole Johan Mjøs ended up releasing the ‘TOS EP’ No. 1 and No. 2 ‘TOS – The Remixes’. TOS was the airport code for Tromsø.

Were you aware of any other producers or electronic music scenes in the rest of Norway? I didn’t know of anybody outside Tromsø that was into this kind of music in Norway. I had heard that there had been a club going for a couple of years in the small town of Lillestrøm outside of Oslo but that was a couple of years later.

Mental Overdrive_London, circa 1992

Mental Overdrive_London, circa 1992

Why do you think Tromsø was such a fertile location for making music? Tromsø is great for taking the time to get immersed in your projects, and in the dark season what else is there to do? You sit inside and you make or listen to music. It’s a great place to contemplate and be productive. You don’t run around town to parties and gigs all the time. Although there was a very vibrant music scene with gigs every three months. Pretty strange music was classed as amazing and bands like the Residents were huge in Tromsø. They were even bigger than Aha!

When did you first kind of become aware of an Oslo music scene? I ended up moving to Oslo in the early nineties and by chance, was invited to DJ at a party thrown by DJ Geronimo from Lillestrøm. They had been running a club for a couple of years in Lillestrøm (a small town outside Oslo). I made new friends from that crowd and started playing the odd DJ slot at their parties. It was a long journey [from Tromsø] but I was like “how much time do I have on this earth?”. In Oslo during the early ’90s, as in every European city, we arranged some of the first legal raves and had guests like Aphex Twin, CJ Bolland and Outlander. I did support slots for bands like The Prodigy in huge arenas, but [I realised] this was not the reason I got into music. I decided to leave the techno arena rave circuit and return to playing the music we liked in small bars. That’s when I met Pål Strangefruit who had just moved into town and he was my favourite DJ at the time. The scene kept going with clubs like Jazid and Skansen for a few years and that’s when the Oslo style of disco was born. Dan & Conrad, Idjut Boys came over to DJ frequently as they were our favourite DJs at the time. Local music was being produced and I made some tracks with an English producer called Nicholas Sillitoe under the name Illumination. We did a few singles, then an album and suddenly we had a creative, vibrant club scene with lovely music and people, everything you need to have a good scene.

Why do you think Norwegian electronic music has such a strong connection with disco? The mid to late 90s club scene of Oslo and Bergen brought disco to the attention of Norwegian clubbers. I grew up hating disco. It was the worst thing ever but I couldn’t understand why I felt like this? I worked out there were two reasons. The first was that growing up I was never played tracks by Patrick Cowley or Arthur Russell Productions; I was just played chart music. The second reason was at the school dance when I was 11. They were playing some amazing disco tracks, I got carried away with the groove and started dancing with some girls and I was in heaven! Getting down to the groove and that was my acceptance of disco music! But the school bully was stood next to me and while dancing, I knocked his fresh new bottle of Coke right out of his hand. At the time, a bottle of Coke cost as much as a skyscraper and he really threatened me; I think that was the moment when the word disco left my vocabulary. and I stopped listening to it. Now, listening to disco is like therapy for me. I also had conversations with Renaat from R&S Records in the early 90s when I was really into hard techno, he loved disco and tried to convince me that all dance is rooted in disco and that I was living in denial! Later, Bjørn [Torske] started bringing along all this great disco and when Tore (Erot) started producing I realised that my personal relationship with disco had been one of trying to come to terms with it, obviously now I understand it’s part of the foundation for all the music I love. The most influential years were when Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and later Todd Terje emerged onto a very health Oslo scene where small clubs were playing great music laced with disco. I rediscovered this great disco music from the past that I had missed out on.

Kvaløya (Whale Island, Tromsø), 2013

Kvaløya (Whale Island, Tromsø), 2013

Can you talk about Tore and his role in Norwegian music? Tore was serious when it came down to making his disco music. He came to my studio with a keyboard and played his own solos which were then used in my sampler to put them into tracks; he was so focussed with nothing left to chance. Tore was a very funny, lovable and kind person.

You, Bjørn and Röyksopp and a lot of Norwegian producers have a real sense of mischief, why? I think you should take your music seriously but not yourself and if you do your friends will tell you. This is a good way of keeping people on their toes and I think life is like that. If you don’t make your own fun you’re not going to have any.

Can you tell me about when you and Bjørn delivered the album to Joakim at Smalltown Supersound? He released some of my music on Smalltown Supersound and he began talking about Bjørn all the time, asking me “What’s Bjørn up to and will he release anything?” and he really wanted to put out some of Bjørn’s music. They started talking and agreed on doing an album and eventually, Bjørn put the finished album onto a CD master. He called me and said, “How are we going to give this to Joakim?”. We decide on a fun way to do it. I took my camcorder and Bjørn’s CD master to Oslo airport filming myself arriving on the express train, walking through the station to the luggage lockers. I held up the CD master and filmed the number of the box and put it in, turned the key and stopped filming. I then went to the local post office where Joakim had his PO Box and I put the luggage locker key in an envelope and wrote Joakim’s name on it. Since it was also my post office, I started chatting to one of the guys working there and I said, “Can I just put this in Joakim’s PO box? It’s just right there.” And he was like, “It’s not how we usually do it but OK this time”. I managed to put an unstamped envelope with only his name in his PO Box and when Joakim came to collect his mail in the morning, he found this mysterious envelope with just a key inside. I sent him an email from a fake email account linking to a website that I had set up. It was when the US Pitchfork site was launched so we called it and I posted the video so all he got was this key and a link to a video and he had to figure out the rest.

How important has Smalltown Supersound been? Smalltown Supersound and Joakim have been one of the main reasons that Norwegian music was recognised globally from the early 2000s because it was the only independent label that had enthusiasm, guts and a real love of music. When he wanted to start putting out music it was an easy decision to release it on Tellé Records because Mikal was genuine about his interest in music and Smalltown Supersound was an eclectic label. That’s something I value very highly. For a long period, Smalltown Supersound was the main outlet for Norwegian dance music.


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: Bjørn Torske #2

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.

Bjørn Torske’s recording career began with the “T.O.S. EP” compilation released on Belgium’s SSR Records where he appeared as Alegria, and with Ole Johan Mjøs as Radikal Buzz. Torske and Mjøs then formed Ismistik and released 3 EPs on Dutch label Djax, as well as collaborating with Rune Lindbæk & Ole Johan Mjøs in Open Skies [Reinforced Records] and Volcano [Olympic Records] in 1992. During this period Torske moved to Bergen, and currently DJs internationally and releases his music on label Smalltown Supersound (STSS).

Hi Bjørn, Please tell us what it was like growing up in Tromsø?
It’s not a big place and was kind of boring because there wasn’t much music culture in Tromsø, so we started listening to music that came from other places. A lot of the older people that we knew, travelled to London and other European cities picking up on the music and scenes that were happening there. I was 13 and at school when I started listening to hip hop music and early electro. We just copied and shared cassette tapes between us; we didn’t buy vinyl records back then. Plus, there weren’t that many records in those genres available, so we started with double cassette decks, making our own remixes using the pause button. We were listening to the local radio stations which were doing the same thing with the music and mixing; certain shows were picking up the music and in some cases buying it on import; especially Vidar Hanssen who runs Beatservice Records and his radio show was by the same name. In retrospect, I think of him as having real importance to the scene because he was playing all sorts of stuff like body pop, Prince, The Cure; an alternative selection of genres and sound. We were mostly into the electronic, harder stuff but then house music came along, and he started playing lots of that as well. We didn’t like it immediately (there was far too much cheerful piano), our tastes were darker and more intense, we liked Front 242 and bands like that. Gradually though, things started changing and eventually a couple of friends and I started doing our own show at a station called Brygga Radio.

Bjørn Torske & Strangefruit in Bergen circa 1993

Bjørn Torske & Strangefruit in Bergen circa 1993

We got access to tape recorders, four-track cassette recorders so we could develop our pause button remixing ideas. We started to make remixes and megamixes for our own shows splicing tape and other techniques. Before we knew it, we had our own sound, started playing around and programming and eventually began making our own tracks. I had a friend who was really into scratching who came on the shows and performed live. When I graduated from school, I was unsure of what to do because my parents wanted me to go to university and become an engineer. But that wasn’t tempting to me, so we got some equipment together and began to make a record to see if a label would be interested in releasing it. Geir Jenssen [Biosphere] listened to some of the music I had made at home on my four-track cassette recorder and said, “Yeah, if you could do this properly, produce and mix it I would like to send it to Crammed Discs in Belgium”. Excitedly we put together a proper production and it was sent off, accepted and released. That was in 1991 which was the start of it all and we were all based in the tiny, boring, quiet and northern Norwegian town of Tromsø!

Who were your contemporaries during this time? For my radio show it was Ole Johan Mjøs, who was also crucial in an early project called ‘Ismistik’ which was released on Djax-Up-Beats in Holland, and Open Skies, together with Rune Lindbæk on ‘Reinforced Records’ from England, and later on there was a more pop project called ‘Volcano’ on which I was involved in two single releases before I  moved to Bergen.

Why did you decide to move to Bergen?
I moved to Bergen when I joined the Civil Service, which is our alternative to the Military service, I think you call it the National Service in the UK? I managed to buy an Akai 1000 sampler, which was really expensive at the time and together with my Atari and keyboard, I suddenly had a studio set up where I could produce music. I decided that this was my destiny, I was already on the DJ circuit and then it happened ‘Bang’! The day I moved to Bergen, the friend that met me at the airport said, “We’re starting up a club. Do you want to DJ there?”, I think you know the answer! The club was called Phoenix and it was in a basement on the other side of town and at that time they had odd licensing laws that meant you could serve alcohol until 1 o’clock, but you could stay open until 5 am. It was an after-hours club. It’s never been anything of the sort, later, because the rules were stricter, but that was really happening at the time. Kai Stoltz (Kahuun) DJed there as well. There was also a guy called Anders Kofsky and he’s still kind of part of the scene but doesn’t DJ play as much. I met Tore [Erot] at the Phoenix, together with Mikal Telle. Erot was still very young then, about 16 or 17 so he wasn’t really allowed into the club, but we managed to get him in any way. So, we started hanging there and some years later (1995) we started DJing together at Café Opera. He started producing his earliest tracks on cassettes and he told me about his working method and processes using the most basic software. I remember him astonished by the sequencer and other hardware I was using such as Q-Base software. I gave Erot’s demo tape to Per Martinsen of Mental Overdrive and he liked it. Per had his own label called Love OD but I had an idea for my own label, which I had already been discussing with Per. He set up a P&D (Press & Distribution) deal with a company in England and the label ‘Footnotes’ was born.

Bjørn Torske DJing Storsteinen (421 m above sea level)

Bjørn Torske DJing Storsteinen (421 m above sea level), 2013

Would you say that Erot and yourself influenced each other musically? We definitely did and I must say that Paul Strangefruit’s role in promoting the disco sounds of the 70s and 80s were an influence on us all. Prior to this, we had been having a laugh about ’70s disco being too ‘kitsch’, but when we started digging in the disco underground and finding tunes that were more funk and groove-based we started taking notice. We realised that the house music that we loved was based on these disco earlier tracks, and that was how the house genre really began. The studio versions of older instrumental disco tracks and Paul Strangefruit was at the forefront of this craze as he had been buying this music since he was 13, in his hometown of Harmar.

How did your relationship with Svek come about? The relationship with Svek Records came through Erot’s music being signed by Svek after they had heard his release on Footnotes. He was initially asked to do a remix that turned out to be very popular so they asked him to do an original track for them. I had made a track which I didn’t know what to do with, so we ended up on either side of a 10″ vinyl in 1999: Erot’s ‘Battlestar XB-7’ and my ‘Jeg Vil Være Søppelmann’ track. We were aware that it was working on the dancefloor because we had been playing it prior to release from DAT and CDR. It has a very ‘dirty’ sound that was reworked during mastering, and when it was released on Svek I heard that two copies had been mixed up together at Miami Music Conference by Danny Tenaglia which was very gratifying.

Can you tell us how Telle Records was set up? Mikal Telle started a record shop in 1995, called ‘Primitive’ stocking mainly of hardcore punk, electronic and hip hop music. When the Bergen scene started evolving around new artists such as Erot, his Footnote 12″ was released and other artists like Ralph Myerz started appearing that were making music were making new, exciting music. Mikal was the ‘professional fanboy’ and he wanted to see others be successful, but saw that musicians, producers and DJs weren’t very good at organising; and he could do that! He put on the first Den Elleville Festen Festival in 1997 that generated funds for him to release his first 7” single on Telle Records. We were all astonished at how quickly the label became so widely recognised. I think Erot’s presence had a lot to do with it because he already had a strong fan base and his releases always did well, but the combination of Mikal and Erot is what made Telle’s launch so successful.

Do you know what sparked Erot’s interest in dance music? I can trace it back to when I started hanging out with him at the Phoenix. He went there with an older friend of his, Svein Arvie whom he produced music in their bedroom studio setups. The first time I heard anything they made together was 1994, I think. It was a rave style type of track with a lot of silly samples; and really funny. I don’t know if any of those tapes still exist, but what do I know is that Todd Terje’s big sister was a friend of Erot, so Todd will have heard the music on those tapes when he was 10 to 12 years old. Those tapes were my first experience of Erot’s music-making as well.

What is your relationship with Todd Terje? My relationship began through Prins Thomas, who is an old friend as he lived in Bergen around 2000 before he moved to Oslo.  Thomas started talking about someone on the scene that turned up at all of his club nights and asking lots of questions about the music he was playing. Whether it was a new vinyl or the repress; we called him ‘Disco Terje’. He started producing edits and hanging out with Thomas, who did a remix of Terje’s first release ‘Akwaaba’, ‘Bodies / Boozefinger’ on Bear Funk in 2004.  I started to get to know him when he started making music and DJing. He’s very particular about how he’s going to produce his music, it’s cheeky a bit like Erot’s approach. He has that magic ingredient that I can’t put my finger on, it just makes you dance.

Norwegian music consists of many musical influences such as reggae, soul, disco, house, techno, prog-rock. Sweden or Denmark don’t appear to have such a wide range of influences in their music. Why do you think might be? Initially, I was into the Chicago, Detroit and New York sound, but it was mostly house and techno, then I started hanging out with Paul Strangefruit whose disco tastes were an influence. I wasn’t really into dub and reggae, but then disco began absorbing sound and styles from the reggae and dub scene, all those François Kevorkian B-sides! This was the mid-nineties and my fascination with Kraftwerk drew to the likes of Neu! and Can and that led to other types of progressive rock music. So, it’s basically just a big stew of different musical styles. Norway’s disco influence was linked to Strangefruit. He started his NRK show [national broadcaster] on Saturdays before Olle Abstract’s show and it was a very disco focused event, it was the only national show to present that type of music, as  Olle was more into the pumping kick-drum orientated house music. Strangefruit was into the percussive, groovy kind of style like the Idjut Boys, so Paul’s show on the NRK was very influential.

Was the Norwegian scene influenced by visiting international DJs? Yeah, definitely, in the last half of the 90s the ‘Bergen’ scene was really ‘happening’ with lots of parties and clubs hosting prestigious British DJs. I remember Basement Jaxx played here before they became a household name, and also the Idjut Boys, DJ Harvey and the Rhythm Doctor; I can’t remember all the names but it was like a who’s who of the UK [mainly] disco underground scene and they visited frequently into the 2000s. This definitely had a big influence on us.

Do you think the key Norwegian cities (Oslo, Tromsø and Bergen) have different styles of ‘sound’? I don’t really think too much about that because if feel it’s more the national scene of Norway but Oslo, which is the biggest city, has always been more fragmented but ultimately it’s the same key people behind the releases, club nights that create the styles of sound. Oslo has a wider range of distinct scenes in relation to specific musical styles and sound but not necessarily of the people and social environment [clubs]. As for Bergen, and as I remember of Tromsø, it’s the same people moving around the different places and venues, but having said that I do feel part of a Norwegian music scene.

How did your relationship with Smalltown Supersound (STSS) in Bergen develop? There weren’t a lot of other options as the I first released on Svek [from Sweden] was just winding down. Per Martinsen [my friend from Tromsø] had just started working with STSS, so I contacted Joakim Haugland [owner of STSS] and we decided to work together and released ‘Ny Lugg’ [12″ vinyl] in 2006, and then ‘Kokt Kveite’ in 2007; this led to my first album project on STSS [‘Feil Knapp’] released later that year. STSS and Telle Records had similar working practices all based around friendship. I’ve never signed a contract with them. I never did with Mikal [Telle Records], either, I feel comfortable with that. No lawyers were involved!

Bjørn_Torske at Haggle Records, London_2014

Bjørn_Torske at Haggle Records, London-2014

How did you present your first album [Feil Knapp] to Joakim (STSS)? I don’t know where to begin, but basically, Per and I were always plotting and loved what The KLF were doing with their music, art and the industry, so Per suggested we play a prank with the album and STSS. So, what happened is that I gave the album master CD to Per who cooked up this idea whilst he was touring China! He took a handheld camcorder to Oslo Central Station and he made a ‘covert’ film of the CD being put into a small luggage/post locker. Whilst filming he took the CD, walked into the station and straight up to the box [number 30?], opens it, puts in the CD, pays with coins, gets the key and then turns off the camera. Next, he goes to the Post Office and manages to put the key envelope with no stamps, no address, nothing just the key in the STSS postal mailbox. Then the next stage of the plan: Joakim was really into Pitchfork [the magazine/website] and the record reviews that STSS  received,  so Per designed a mimic blog called ‘Fitchpork’, posting a video he’d made on YouTube with a text linking to the forthcoming Smalltown release of the Bjørn Torske album and sent this link to Joakim from a fake email. Joakim sees the mail, goes to his PO Box to grab his mail and returns to the office. He opens the envelope and finds a key and it took a week to connect the video, the key, P.O. Box and station but he finally got the album CD from the Postbox. It was a bit of fun; I delivered my second Kokning album on a USB stick hidden inside a marzipan Codfish [Norwegian for Torske].

How do you create your music? It’s mostly inspired by DJ sets. I get a lot of material from playing records to and experimenting with music live. I will mix two tracks of totally different styles, and if it works then try and recreate the idea in the studio. I will use software such as Ableton to begin creating snippets of sequences, and then compose and transfer the idea to an instrument so that I can play it live. If it requires live drums then I will add them and once all done go into a studio to mix it down! I feel my eclectic style falls in between the main genres of the Norwegian dance scene; at first, I was into the Detroit sound, which you can hear in my earlier album, but I just want to explore music to find a combination of styles and genres. I have also produced other artists, for example, Crimea X from Italy. I spent a week in a studio in Bologna, Northern Italy re-recording instruments, composing and re-arranging the compositions, and returned to Norway with the Pro Tool Sessions to mix them in an entirely analogue studio.

Has the natural environment of Norway influenced the music scene? Initially, everyone producing and performing music was trying to escape the dull reality of living in Norway, which we saw as a totally ‘not’ happening place to live. So, we began travelling to London to buy our records which very influential to us.  I think Norwegian-ness is something I became aware of later because it inspired us to make music and live here as well. I’ve never lived in any big cities, and if I had lived and produced music in Berlin or London it would definitely have influenced my music and perhaps, even take my music in a different direction. Bergen, it’s relaxed, it’s close to nature, it’s very green and I feel a strong attraction and influence from that.

What’s your favourite ever Norwegian record or piece of music? Wow! That’s quite hard to answer. A contender is Erot’s remix of Mental Overdrive’s track ‘About Jazz’. I can’t explain why, but it’s a massive dancefloor track when I DJ that I like to pull out, the Idjut Boys put it out on their Discfunction label. It’s astonishing how it works and speaking as a DJ, I think that might be the best.

Who’s your favourite Norwegian producer? Biosphere

Favourite ever Norwegian club? Café Opera in Bergen, Oslo’s Jazid in its heyday, and also Skansen runs it close.

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.

‘Love Not Sex’ by Stubb – Teaser Video

The brand new single from Stubb is out in mid-October with mixes from Mori Ra and Leca Lecara.
Get your pre-sale HERE





Rave-enka – Full Fres EP

The more beardy half of De Fantastiske To is back with more of his floor filling tech-disco bombs straight from the heart of Oslo.

Full Fres leads the charge with a nagging riff, filtered pad and swinging drums. An acid arp brings the top end as the music works its hypnotic magic in to peaktime madness.

Regnværsdag keeps the analogue synth feel but takes a deeper route at the breaks with minor key pads and keyboard stylings for wonderful results.

Finally Teppefall takes a tribal drum loop and puts it through the Rave-enka disco machine. A driving bass pushes the dancers before a gorgeous chord change and arp bring the happy vibes.

Justin Robertson – “Massive…will hammer to bits”

Harri (Sub Club) – “Liking all of these….will play and support”

Fingerman – “Lovely warm vibes. Cheers!”

James Rod – 10/10

Anthony Mansfield – “Chunky jams for proper ravelording.”

Nutritious – “Deep, fuzzmatic, tropical. Tiki Disco!”

Olle Abstract – “Good stuff. Teppefall is the main track for me!”

Robot 84 – “All three tracks sounding great, Full Fres & Regnvaersdag doing it for me…”

Francisco Azpiri (Soundersons) – “Like it very much, for sure on my set ¡¡¡ thanks ¡¡¡”

Found Sounds – “Liking this”

The Northern Disco Lights Road Trip to Svalbård


After three years in the making, our film Northern Disco Lights covering the birth and rise of Norwegian dance music has been released, well received, competed at film festivals, won an award, been shown on TV and is now streaming on Red Bull TV. We have just had a big show at London’s Village Underground and the promo cycle is pretty much over, except for one final road trip.

Team NDL are headed to the place that is the most northern bit of Northern Norway…with Viking horns on. In fact, it’s the northern most settlement in the world –Svalbård.

Since seeing Carl Christian Lein Størmer, Per and Aggie Martinsen’s brilliant film Ghost Radio Hunter (go seek) it’s been caught in our imaginations and we’ve been trying to get there ever since. There are more polar bears than people (approx. 3000 / 2400), it’s pitch black for 6 months of the year and has a deserted Soviet mining town. It’s as far North from Tromsø as Tromsø is from Oslo and it’s next stop, the North Pole.

After much manoeuvring, Per (Mental Overdrive) managed to arrange a trip to the island for a screening and party with Mental Overdrive live, myself (Flash Atkins) and the mighty Bjørn Torske. Pete Jenkinson (producer) is along for the trip but unfortunately, the third cog in the production team, camera wizz Terje Rafaelsen won’t be as he’s working. He’ll be missed.

It’s hard to know what to expect from the party but the first thing that comes to mind is Gruff Rhys wearing a robot head in the Patagonian outback and playing to a room full of bemused locals in in his excellent film, Separado!  We shall see.

So it’s time to practise my gun skills (everybody carries them in case of bear attacks) and stock up on vitamin D.


An over night stay in Tromsø where we catch up with Terje and nail the duty free. The city used to feel a long way North, not any more. Forecast for Longyearbyen, -1 and 6 metres per second wind that will make it feel like -10. Coats and snow boots are borrowed.


We get on the once daily flight and take off for the Arctic with additional decks, CDJs and flight cases in tow. It’s an hour and forty minutes and a very strange sensation as it gets steadily darker outside. It really does feel like we are flying into the abyss, especially when the wind picks up and things get pretty choppy. As we start to descend, the aircraft is pushed and pulled around and there is still nothing to see outside. Suddenly landing lights appear at eye height and it’s white-knuckle time. Everybody seems to be holding their breath and there’s a collective exhale as we touch the ground.

So here we are in Longyearbyen, the world’s most Northernmost settlement. We are greeted by Jan Martin Berg (our host for the weekend and the man who put it all together) and Per, and we hook up with Bjørn Torske and Nicolas Horne who’s doing the visuals. Then it’s out in to the wilderness. Town is a few kilometres away but we take a diversion to the “Doomsday” Svalbård Global Seed Vault that stores over a million packets of seeds. It is backup for the world’s other 1,750 banks in case of regional or global crises and it certainly seems like we may need it at the moment.

The rough track climbs up in to the mountain and it seems like we are on another planet, dark, barren and cold. The entrance is just a door with some kind of light installation over the top that makes it feel even more sci-fi. You know when they first get to the cave in Prometheus, like that.

Back in the car we bombard Jan-Martin with questions; how cold does it get (-25 degrees), do you really need a gun for polar bears (yes), do they come in to town (occasionally), how long between the 24 hour dark nights and sun (5 weeks, it changes 20 minutes a day), what’s the most difficult season (it depends on who you ask, but the 24 hour daylight sends people crackers). We find out that all the power comes from the last remaining coal-fired power station in Norway and the irony of it being next door to the seed bank is not lost on us.

The majority of the town is heated by water pipes still hot from cooling down the coal furnaces. It seems to be the only power solution as it’s too gusty for turbines, there is no electricity from the mainland and you can’t dig cables in to the permafrost. Everybody has to have a job and if you are ill or too old to care for yourself, you are shipped out. The main industry was mining, most of which have been shut down and the average stay for Norwegians is 6.3 years, but for foreigners (of which there are over 50 nationalities), 4.3. Everything is shipped in and nothing can grow.

But none of these statistics get over how weird it is. It really does feel like we are at the end of the world and that humans shouldn’t be here. If the power went down, things would go south very quickly.

At the hotel we dump our bags and head straight into town, which is basically one main street with a few shops, bars, diners and a small supermarket. Longyearbyen runs up the middle of a massive valley with mountains on either side. It’s cold and we’re hungry and the café we go to ticks all the stereotypical boxes; wall to wall pine, arctic photos and dead animals everywhere. We then have a look around the shops, most notably one that specialises in every hide imaginable including seal, badger, wolf, reindeer (which now looks great on my bed), brown and polar bears, which come from the Canadian Inuits who are allowed to hunt the bears. But it still seems pretty wrong. I ask if they have any under the counter dodos, they don’t…. or so they say. The polar bears could well be on the endangered list because they have all been killed and stuffed, virtually every building we go in has one, some wearing boxing gloves.

We pop in for a brew with Per’s mother-in-law, Eva Grøndal who is one of the few people to have been born here as her mother hid the pregnancy until it was too late to leave for the mainland (you’re not allowed to give birth on Svalbård). She and Per told us about how her house was destroyed in an avalanche the previous year as a result of global warming in the Arctic, due to above average snowfall.

Once evening came it felt a bit more normal to be in the dark, so we go for a dinner of reindeer (what else?) with the Tromsø KOFOR / RYK crowd and talk about how we can promote Norway in the UK on the back of the film. Then it’s on to the Svalbård Brewery bar on an industrial estate that is jumping with plenty of young beardy, outdoorsy types. When that shuts down we’re off to the Karlsberger Pub which is the local’s drinking hole. It’s going full bore and no surprises considering there are at least 350 bottle of spirits on display and a ceiling that touches your head. We promise ourselves we will go home early to save our energy for tomorrow when suddenly its 2am and last orders are called….whoops.


We wake late in the dark and go for breakfast in the dark, ready for a day in the dark. It constantly feels like 6pm and I can only equate it to having jetlag. There’s a trip out of town to see some huskies and with the horizontal wind rocking the car, you realize just how hostile the environment is.

Off to the sound check at the Kulturhuset and the room is a big hall with brilliant facilities. Its a bit ‘dry’ which will be great for the film, less so for the party. After all the excitement there’s time for a disco nap then over to Eva Grøndal’s gallery, just out of town. I ask Aggie if it’s safe to walk and she isn’t 100% sure as there’s a stretch of road where there are no houses to run in to if there’s a bear. Crikey. The other danger is getting knocked over by vehicles in the dark so everybody is high-vized up to the max. We cadge a lift.

Eva’s mother and father took over 14,000 photos, mainly on Svalbård. She is curating them and they are amazing, like a lost treasure trove from a by-gone era. I look forward to them get the appreciation and audience they deserve.

At dinner (seal carpaccio is on the menu…Pete steps up) we find out that something has gone wrong with the bar in the venue so we’ll have to find somewhere else. It all gets exciting for everybody except Jan-Martin who has his head in his hands as we talk cafés, rooms and sound systems. Truth be known, we are slightly disappointed when the issue gets resolved after 40 minutes and we are back in the Kulturhuset.

At the screening, it’s pretty quiet as it seems word hasn’t really got out. The film kicks off and those that are there, enjoy it. Afterwards Mental Overdrive starts things cooking with a live modular setup that drifts from ambient noodlings in to sublime techno with plenty of cuts from his new album, “Epilogue” on Prins Thomas’ Rett I Fletta label. More people have turned up and we’ve got a party on our hands as Per proceeds to rock it. He is without question one of the great un-sung heroes of Norwegian dance music.

Next, I am going B2B with Bjørn Torske, in my opinion one of the world’s best DJs and most original producers, so I’m super chuffed. The system is immense and those records that sound like they’ve got a bit of grunt at home are suddenly bloody massive. We soon get in to a groove as house gets mixed in to disco and back again: Ulfus’ Guts! – (Funky Gibbons Dub), Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchetra – Too Much Information (Laolu Remix Edit), Solid State – Philly Live (Rack’em Edit), DJ Click – Lila Club and finishing off with Brassroots – Good Life. High sweat manoeuvres achieved.

Party over, it’s back to the hotel bar to see the night out and we bombard the locals with questions they must have asked a hundred times before. There’s also talk of how to get back for another party so watch this space.


We start on the two-day trip back to Blighty feeling a bit shell shocked by the experience. It is without question one of the strangest places I have ever been. The proximity to nature and elements, climate and geography and just the isolation makes for a something very weird and wonderful.

Ben Davis


Hear two tracks from Mental Overdrive’s live set.


Northern Disco Lights Hits London

What were clubs playing before they got switched on to dance music?”
“Mostly shit music”

The untold story of a group of teenagers from the remote cities of Bergen and Tromsø set off a chain of events that transform their country.

We are truly excited to announce the screening of the incredible documentary, Northern Disco Lights. In a country where the ripples of disco were never able to reach, it takes an entire new generation to discover the unstoppable force of dance music.

The first half of this evening will feature the Northern Disco Lights screening, beginning at 8pm sharp and with just 200 tickets available. Followed by a Q+A with the film’s creators and Lindstrom and Bjorn Torske who feature in the film.

After the screening, we’ll be throwing a party til the early hours. With Norwegian space-disco wizard, Lindstrom, performing live along with fellow Norwegian cosmic disco star Bjorn Torske. North London duo Idjut Boys, Bill Brewster and resident Dorado. To complete this cosmic lineup is Flash Atkins, director of the Northern Lights film.

Film Trailer –

Entry from 7pm
Film Screening + Party – £30 (limited 200 tickets)

Entry from 10pm
Party 1st release – £15
Party 2nd release – £17.50
Party 3rd release – £20

19:00 – 20:00​ – Flash Atkins opening Dj Set​
20:00 – 21:15​ -​​ Film​ Screening ​ ​
21:15 – 21:45​ – Q&A​
21:45 – 06:00​ – Amazing music

2 Billion Beats – Remix EP feat. Leon Sweet, Richard Seaborne & Magnus International

Tom and Col have dusted off their high tops and asked the Paper Allstars to give their favourite album track a rub-down.

Richard Seaborne went for Papa and has kept some 80s flava while stripping things back to the raw groove as only he can. There’s a boogie house bass, a rock sold kick, shaky hats and GizMo adding some warped vocals. Oh, and did I mention the acid?

Leon Sweet returns to the fold and it’s good to have him back on Slow Down. Clipped tech-house drums and hypnotic synths burble along, all held down by a kick that carries some serious weight. Using the chiming and vocals from the original, the track builds to a crescendo that will melt dance floors.

Finally Norway’s finest, Magnus International goes breakbeat with a nod to the glory days of rave as he uses plenty of the original track to weave it’s weave it’s 5am magic.

Vinny Villbass and the Skauern EP

Vinny Villbass is one of the Norwegian artists emerging from the shadows of the Oslo house scene. He co-runs and plays at the seminal Sunkissed, has had releases on Beatservice and Eskimo and is the mustachioed man about town . This is his debut for Paper and we are very pleased to welcome him in to the label’s Nordic family.

En Liten Pose Selvtillit is deep house at it’s finest and harks back to the early Tromsø techno scene pioneered by Biosphere and Mental Overdrive. Crisp production, clipped swinging beats and percussion plus an incessant bass make this one for the summer, before the track builds to a synth break that wobbles it’s way in to the world of the weird.

Kahytten (Full Fest Versjon) has a pulse and drive that will get any club rocking. Loose congas, synth riff, locked in bottom end and a wandering synth hypnotise in to a full blooded dancefloor destroyer. The studio trickery ramps up and we’ve got a fight on our hands.

Kahytten takes the template in a slightly different direction with more pads and if you try hard enough you can hear the sound of the Oslo fjord in the background.


De Fantastiske To – When I Want To EP

Norwegian young guns De Fantastiske To are back with two tracks that lift their game to the heavyweight division.

When I Want To is a stripped back vocal bomb. Machine drums and a nagging stab bring the swing before Della’s understated vocals set the soul. Equally at home in big rooms or sweaty basements from London to Sydney, this packs a massive underground punch.

Next up, Skumring keeps things subterranean but drops the BPMS to the chug setting. Clanking percussion, sub and an acid line draw you in to hypnosis before the break introduces a balearic pad and synth line. Then the drums are back and it’s a trip to the end.

Harri (Sub Club) – “Lovely warm up material”

Anthony Mansfield – “Strong release!”

Pete Herbert – “Excellent”

Tronik Youth – “Love Skumring”

Billy Scurry – “Yep, feeling these, very much!! Top work!”

Gold Boy (Midnight Riot) – “Nice work fellas”

Vinny Villbass – “Great tracks. heavy rotation.”

Aldrin Zouk – “Fab slo-slung builder on Skumming! Thanks!!”

Nick Holder (DNH) – “FIRE!”

Francisco Azpiri – “Hard to choose ¡¡¡, both mixes are excellent ¡¡¡ looking forward to spin them in Mexico clubs ¡¡¡”

James Rod -“BIG SUPPORT”

Somerville & Wilson – “Fantastic release from De Fantastiske!! Love both tracks. Especially When I Want To for the Dancefloor”

Richard Seaborne – “Ace…Norway meets Lil Louis”

BG Baarregaard – Aalone EP

Icelandic groove warrior B.G. Baarregaard is back on Paper Disco with an EP written after a move to the Norwegian town of Aal. Avoiding the use of samples it’s modern flipped out good time music for feet and floors wherever they may be.

AMR is modern disco with a popping NRG acid bass, funky keys, some Nile guitar and everything you need for a disco ball moment. Just when you think you’ve got it nailed the chord changes and off it goes again.

From the first bass and chords of Kulturhuset you know summer is well and truly on the way. If house music wore a grin then this would have one a mile wide. Stabbing chords, jumping drums and tuned percussion bring the sunshine.

Finally Mestringskatten is the deepest track of the package but still has that 80s synth sound. It’s in beach bar mode with plenty of twinkling and balearic sensibility ideal for sinking a Pina Colada on the Adriatic. So when you’re sat there thinking I know this this one, well this is it!

Yam Who? : “Bjorn providing the special goody bag!”

Sleazy McQueen : “My favorite Iceland-cum-Ål transplant is quite at home surrounded by icy soundscapes, bouncing, round bass and latin percussion. It’s a treat to hear him develop as an artist through the years.”

Fingerman: “Nice chuggy numbers. Kulturhuset stands out for me. First rate :)”

Get Down Edits: “Proper, This is cosmic disco at its best, top quality!”

Daco “Great EP with lots of bounce!”

ROBOT 84 : “Nice summer vibes!”

Chris Massey Music: “Mastringskattan sounding cooler than a Calippo Cucumber here….full support and will give this a few trial runs”

Cosmic Capers Radio Show : “Mestringskattens cosmic swirls gets the vote for me on this one, nice tune.”

Pete Herbert : “Love ’em”

Bad Barbie : Lovely laid back summer meanderings”

Neil Diablo : “Sexy ep! amr is my favorite”