Andy Swatland and Per Martinsen at Rocky Plater Bar

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.